Attorneys in Texas, California, and Washington, DC are reporting that undocumented toddlers as young as three years old are being ordered to appear in court alone for their deportation proceedings.
Even though young children have been compelled to appear in immigration court by themselves during the Obama administration — with one judge in 2016 even saying that toddlers were capable of learning immigration law on their own — the frequency of toddlers in diapers appearing in court on their own is at a new high thanks to the Trump administration’s former policy of separating young children from their parents when detained at the border.
Lindsay Toczylowski, the executive director of the Los Angeles-based Immigrant Defenders Law Center, told the Texas Tribune that in the hearings themselves, it’s obvious that the toddlers have no idea what’s happening.
“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 said. “It really highlighted the absurdity of what we’re doing with these kids.”
“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,” she added.
The Tribune reported that earlier this week, a federal judge ordered families to be reunited with their children within two weeks if the child is under five years old, and within 30 days for children above the age of five. However, Cynthia Millan, an attorney with the Powers Law Group in Texas, said the new policy doesn’t guarantee a child will be reunited with their parents, if the mother and/or father has already been deported.
Pediatricians and child health advocates say the emotional harm caused by ripping children — especially toddlers — out of their parents’ arms could be “irreparable,” as was recently seen in the case of a young South American boy who recently tried to commit suicide by jumping off of a building in New York.
Even though several hundred children have reportedly been reunited with their families, there are still nearly 2,000 children currently being held in government shelters who remain separated. There is currently no official government policy to reunite undocumented children with their parents as of this writing.
Jake Shepherd is a freelance writer from Cleveland, Ohio. He enjoys poring through financial disclosure statements, spirited debate, and good scotch. He remains eternally optimistic about the Browns. Email him at jake.d.shepherd.21 (at) hotmail (dot) com.