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A 9th Circuit Court of Appeals three-judge panel ruled Monday that a 13-year-old Honduran boy was not entitled to the appointment of counsel during an unsuccessful asylum bid.

The boy was initially represented by his mother.

The ruling did not cast doubt on the boy’s argument that gang members held a gun to his head and threatened him if he didn’t join a so-called Mara gang.

“Absent a reprieve offered by the government, C.J. will likely be returned to a country in turmoil,” the ruling said, but immigration law “neither provides for nor implies a right to court-appointed counsel at government expense.”

One judge on the San Francisco-based appeals court panel opined that the narrow ruling did not apply to minors who arrive in the United States on their own rather than with a parent, as the Honduran boy did.

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Susan Ferriss joined CPI in 2011 and directs its immigration project. As a Cox Newspapers Latin America...