Monday 5 December 2016

Judge claims toddlers can be 'taught enough immigration law' to defend themselves in court

David Kearns

Published 05/03/2016 | 14:51

Migrant children in the USA protesting against deportation Credit: Center for Human Rights
Migrant children in the USA protesting against deportation Credit: Center for Human Rights

Understanding immigration law is child’s play according to a senior US judge who claims toddlers are capable of defending themselves against deportation orders.

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Assistant Chief Immigration Judge Jack H. Weil, who is responsible for training other immigration judges in the United States, argued that children as young as 3-year-old could be made understand the US’ immigration legal system enough so that they did not require legal counsel.

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“I’ve taught immigration law literally to 3 year olds and 4 year olds,” Mr Weil said in an October deposition, first reported by the Washington Post on Friday.

“It takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of patience. They get it. It’s not the most efficient but it can be done.” he said.

Adding: “You can do a fair hearing… [it] just going to take you a lot of time.”

The US judge made the claims as part of sworn testimony in federal court in Seattle, where the American Civil Liberties Union and other immigrant rights groups are suing the US Justice Department over claims it has forced thousands of unaccompanied minors to defend themselves during immigration courts.

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Following the publication of the deposition, Mr Weil has said his comments were taken out of context, while the Justice Department has sought to distanced itself from the claims, reports the Washington Post.

“At no time has the Department indicated that 3 and 4 year olds are capable of representing themselves,” the Department said in a statement to the newspaper.

“Jack Weil was speaking in a personal capacity and his statements, therefore, do not necessarily represent the views of EOIR or the Department of Justice.”

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