Migrant children as young as 3 years of age are being ordered to appear in court for deportation proceedings, The Texas Tribune reports.
Attorneys from Texas, California and Washington, D.C. told the publication that children were being served with notices to appear in court. While having children appear in court without their parents is not an uncommon practice, more children than before are being ordered into court.
It is likely that the more than 2,000 detained migrant children will have to face court proceedings in coming days.
The executive director of Immigrant Defenders Law Center in Los Angeles, Lindsay Toczylowski, told The Texas Tribune that parents are usually with children in court to explain why they are seeking asylum in the U.S.
“The parent might be the only one who knows why they fled from the home country, and the child is in a disadvantageous position to defend themselves,” Toczylowski said.
She also described to the paper “the absurdity” of representing a toddler in court.
“We were representing a 3-year-old in court recently who had been separated from the parents. And the child — in the middle of the hearing — started climbing up on the table,” Toczylowski told the paper. “It really highlighted the absurdity of what we’re doing with these kids.”
A UCLA child psychology professor, Steve Lee, told the Texas Tribune that having young children go into court to advocate for themselves “couldn’t be any less developmentally appropriate.”
The court summons for children come as the Department of Health and Human Services says it is working to reunite migrant families after a federal judge ruled the Trump administration must immediately reunite those separated under the “zero tolerance” policy.
The policy, announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in April, orders the criminal prosecution of anyone who enters the U.S. illegally. Migrant families were separated as a result of the policy, but after backlash from both sides of the aisle, President Trump signed an executive order to keep migrant families together.
Despite the executive order, many are still questioning how the administration plans to reunite the thousands of separated migrant children, many of whom have already been moved into foster care and detention facilities across the country.
BY BROOKE SEIPEL – 06/28/18