Judge Claims That Young Children Do Not Need Representation In Immigration Court

Few situations may be more frightening for immigrants than being detained and facing deportation also known as Removal proceedings. The Removal process can be confusing and intimidating and many immigrants may not realize that they have certain rights or defenses they can present to fight against their deportation. While detained immigrants do have the ability to hire an attorney to represent them, there are a number of barriers that regularly prevent them from doing so. Some immigrants may not have the means to pay for a private attorney and there is no right to representation as there is in a criminal matter. Additionally, many immigrants may not understand they have the ability to consult with an attorney due to language barriers, mental disabilities, or miscommunications by Immigration authorities. According to the Department of Justice, more than 75,500 immigrants had their cases completed before an Immigration court without representation, in 2014 alone.

Controversial Comments Regarding Children and Representation

One group of immigrants which is particularly vulnerable when they have no access to legal counsel is children. Children of all ages who are unaccompanied by adults arrive at the borders on a daily basis. One report indicates that almost 20,500 minors were apprehended by immigration authorities in only four months from October 2015 through January 2016. The majority of these children have little to no understanding of the Immigration system in the U.S. or of their ability to seek representation. In 2014, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit on behalf of a significant number of immigrant children regarding their lack of access to an attorney in their deportation hearings.

As an expert witness, the U.S. government conducted a deposition of Assistant Chief Immigration Judge Jack H. Weil and the ACLU recently made his deposition public due to some surprising and even alarming statements.

Specifically, Judge Weil stated that he did not believe that children as young as three and four years old needed representation in deportation proceedings, as they had the capability to learn and understand Immigration law. He questioned whether one year olds could represent themselves due their inability to communicate, but he claimed that he himself had successfully educated children under age four well enough for them to represent themselves effectively in court. The Judge did note that doing so can take “a lot of time.”

While this deposition is only the viewpoint of one Immigration judge, the scary truth is that thousands of young children do face immigration courts without representation on a regular basis in the United States. Even if children were old enough to possibly understand basic Immigration law concepts, many of them cannot speak or read in English and have usually been through a traumatizing event in crossing the border and being apprehended. Therefore, the need for representation In immigration courts should not be ignored.

An Experienced Florida Immigration Attorney Can Help

Immigration law is complex and requires special training and knowledge to skillfully provide representation. If you or anyone you know needs assistance, please call immigration attorney Alex T. Barak in Florida at 954-961-6200 as soon as possible.