Most immigrants facing deportation wouldn’t climb onto a table during their court hearings. But then again, most 3-year-olds don’t go to court without parents or lawyers.
Nonetheless, that was the situation during a recent court hearing for a child represented by the Immigrant Defenders Law Center in Los Angeles.
“It really highlighted the absurdity of what we’re doing with these kids,” Center executive director Lindsay Toczylowski told the Texas Tribune.
A federal judge in San Diego ordered the federal government this week to reunite families within 14 to 30 days, depending on the ages of the children. If the decision is not appealed, being reunited with parents may help the minors make their cases. However, as Reuters notes, some parents have already been deported without their kids. Advocates including ABA ProBAR director Kimi Jackson have observed that there is no federal procedure for reuniting families, and lawyers for adult immigrants say the hotlines the federal government has provided are rarely answered and provide little information when they are answered.
A group of immigrant advocates sued in 2014 for a court order granting lawyers to unaccompanied minors, arguing that it is “fundamentally unfair” to expect children to represent themselves. The suit argued that children needed lawyers under both their due process rights–which courts have repeatedly held applies to immigrants–and the Immigration and Nationality Act’s guarantee of a fair hearing. That case led one Justice Department expert to testify that he’d been able to teach immigration law to young children, a claim mocked by immigration lawyers and at least one late-night comedian.