SEATTLE – Attorney General Bob Ferguson has invited attorneys from around the state to meet with him about volunteering to provide legal services to unaccompanied immigrant children.
Hundreds of these children are already in Washington, some of them as young as eight years old. Many of them will face deportation without lawyers. Ferguson recently filed a “friend of the court” brief in a federal case asking the court to appoint attorneys to represent unaccompanied immigrant children.
"Children facing deportation ought to have lawyers,” Ferguson said. “The stakes are too high to let these kids go into these hearings alone.”
The number of unaccompanied children attempting to cross into the United States has more than doubled since last year. And, these children are getting younger. According to the Pew Research Center, there has been a 117 percent increase this year in children aged 12 and younger apprehended at the border.
While escaping violence in their home countries, these children are already vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse, human trafficking, and fraud. In addition, many will now face a legal system they do not understand. When these children face immigration proceedings alone, they almost always lose. According to TRAC Immigration, 41 percent of unaccompanied children in Washington state who have lawyers are granted protection from deportation, but only 4 percent without lawyers are allowed to remain.
“The consequences these children face are dire if they return to their countries,” Ferguson said. “The help of legal experts can make all the difference for them.”
Ferguson and Kids In Need of Defense (KIND), a non-profit working to provide quality and compassionate legal counsel to unaccompanied immigrant and refugee children, will provide information to members of the Washington State Bar Association who want to volunteer to provide legal services for those children.
A state bar rule encourages attorneys to provide pro bono legal services.
Ferguson and KIND will meet with members of the legal and advocacy communities in Seattle from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. Friday, Sept. 26. To RSVP or for more information, contact Mike Webb at 206-735-2815. Similar meetings will be held in Yakima and Spokane later this year.
The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Attorney General Bob Ferguson is working hard to protect consumers and seniors against fraud, keep our communities safe, protect our environment and stand up for our veterans. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Alison Dempsey-Hall, Acting Communications Director