Children who illegally enter the United States must be granted a lawyer to help them stay and evade deportation because of “basic fairness,” demands the American Civil Liberties Union.

Upset with a report that immigration officials in Artesia, N.M., want to send illegal immigrants home 10 to 15 days after being apprehended, the legal defense organization said that the stories of the children must first be investigated.

“Many children crossing the border are seeking refugee protection from violence in their home countries. Both due process and international law require that these kids’ claims be fully and fairly assessed by immigration judges, not dismissed in assembly-line hearings,” said Laura W. Murphy, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office.

“Basic fairness requires that each child has a lawyer to assist in these life-or-death determinations,” she added in a statement.

About 150,000 children from Central America are expected to cross the U.S. border this year, 10 times last year’s total. Many claim to be victims of violence and sexual abuse.

The ACLU was responding to a Thursday report that officials at a newly-established illegal immigrant holding center plans the quick return of those arrested.

A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement official at the center in southeastern New Mexico said officials plan to deport immigrants fast to send a message to others that the U.S. won't tolerate illegal immigration.

“The approach announced today threatens to deprive vulnerable children of the legal protection due to them while placing them in family detention, which has a recent history of brutality, including prison-like conditions and sexual abuse. Video hearings conducted remotely and in haste are incompatible with full and fair adjudication of immigration cases,” said Murphy.

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at