Senate Democrats are sponsoring a bill that would add Connecticut to the short list of states providing funding for the legal representation of indigent children facing deportation, a group the Trump administration says has no right to a lawyer at government expense.
In the 971 deportation filings against juveniles in Connecticut in fiscal year 2018, 78 percent had no legal representation, Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said Tuesday.
Deportations of unrepresented minors in the state increased from 290 in 2017 to 853 in 2018, according to the federal immigration statistics compiled by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.
Looney said the expense to the state would be about $800,000. California, Washington, New Jersey and the city of Denver now provide some funding for legal representation of minors in immigration courts.
In a ruling last year, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the Trump administration that alien children have no right to a government-paid lawyer in deportation cases.
The court upheld an order for the deportation of a 15-year-old Honduran boy, who had fled with his family to the U.S. after they were threatened with death because of his refusal to join a gang. The order was vacated and is now being reviewed by all 11 judges on the court.
The bill is co-sponsored by 17 of the 20 Senate Democrats.
Looney outlined the proposed bill and others at a press conference focusing on criminal justice bills, most of which were conceptual and have yet to be fleshed out. One would call for criminal records to be wiped clean after a certain time.
Rep. J.P. Sredzinski of Monroe, a police dispatcher who serves as the ranking House Republican on the Public Safety and Security Committee, said a measure broadly wiping clean criminal records could deprive police of important background information in cases.
He had no objection, at least in concept, to helping provide juveniles with legal representation in deportation cases.
“I think conceptually it’s something that can work, as long as it’s done in the right way and it’s done to follow the law that we have now,” he said.