Immigration law expert says some could end up in N.O.

Immigrant representation
Updated: Jun. 28, 2018 at 10:01 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - As pressure builds for the federal government to quickly reunite families who entered the country illegally, a local immigration expert said some of the migrants could end up in Louisiana.

Opposition to children being separated from their illegal immigrants parents at the southern border spilled onto the streets Thursday with huge protests in the nation's capitol.

"There continues to be a lot of public outcry and dismay when they hear the sounds of those children," said Tulane University Immigration Law Professor Laila Hlass.

The protests happened as First Lady Melania Trump returned to the border. This time she traveled to Arizona where she talked with officials at a border facility and later visited a complex that is housing migrant children.

"I'm here to support you and give my help, whatever I can for behalf of children and the families," said Mrs. Trump.

"There has to be consequences for violations of law, because if you don't have consequences then I think at the end of the day what you have, is you promote additional illegal activity," said a Border official to the first lady.

President Trump recently halted his much- criticized policy of separating children from their families at the border.

Still a federal judge this week ordered the federal government to reunite separated children with their families within 30 days or less.

The White House said that order requiring thousands of migrant families to be reunited in a short time frame further complicates efforts at effective enforcement of immigration laws.

"So this is going to make sure that the 2,000 children, more than 2,000 children who've been separated from their parents will find a way to be reunited," said Prof. Hlass.

However, she said large scale reunifications will not happen rapidly.

"And none of this will be resolved quickly because many of these parents may be seeking asylum which can be a long, protracted process," said Hlass.

Prof. Hlass said some of the illegal immigrants could end up in New Orleans and other parts of the state.

"Absolutely, so there's going to have to be a decision about the custody of these families, some of them may remain in detention. If families are released they may have ties to Louisiana and then those cases may end up in judges here in New Orleans," she said.

But legal resources could be a challenge.

"The situation here in New Orleans is like the situation across the country, we have very limited non-profit resources here for those people who can't afford an attorney, just a handful of groups who can represent them and the judges have huge backlogs, huge waiting lists, and so it really is going to be a burden on the system to be able to see these cases, but that's the case across the country," said the professor.

The federal government does not pick up the tab for illegal immigrants legal expenses.

"In the immigration system, people do not have the right to an appointed attorney, so people are going to have to either represent themselves in asylum proceedings, or have to find assistance from pro bono counsel," said Professor Hlass.

There are complaints that many illegal immigrants who are released into society as they await court hearings fail to return for the legal proceedings.

Hlass said those with lawyers tend to show up in greater numbers.

"The most successful way of making sure people go to their court dates is ensuring that they have access to counsel, there have been reports to show that over 90% of immigrants who have attorneys in the process actually show up to their hearings," said Hlass.

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