According to attorneys in Texas, California and Washington D.C., immigrant children as young as three years old are being ordered into court alone for their deportation proceedings. While having children appear in court without their parents is not uncommon, more children are being summoned in record numbers. Since the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, more children — including toddlers — are being prosecuted more frequently than ever before.
More than 2,000 detained migrant children could face court proceedings in the coming days.
— Complex (@Complex) June 28, 2018
“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,” Lindsay Toczylowski, executive director of Immigrant Defenders Law Center in Los Angeles, told the Texas Tribune. “It really highlighted the absurdity of what we’re doing with these kids.”
Toczylowski said parents are usually prosecuted with their young children and are often the ones defending the circumstances that led them to seek asylum in the U.S.
This news comes out after a federal judge ordered separated families be reunited within 30 days.
Yes, you’re reading this correctly: Immigrant toddlers ordered to appear in court alone for their own deportation proceedings (via @KHNews) https://t.co/hsfZivbjQX #txlege #tx2018 pic.twitter.com/xbvLAUzg9Z
— Evan Smith (@evanasmith) June 28, 2018
On June 26, a federal judge commanded the White House to reunify families within 14 days if the child is under 5 and 30 days if the child is older. The Justice Department has not said whether it will appeal the ruling. Attorneys involved in the case said they’re not sure how the judge’s order will work and when and how it could take effect.
Despite the judge’s order, some children are facing legal immigration proceedings without their parents.
Immigrant toddlers ordered to appear in court alone.
Anyone thinks this does anything but result in a trampling of a child’s humanity and make a mockery of the US justice system? https://t.co/vn8FVDibZ0
— Hend Amry (@LibyaLiberty) June 28, 2018
According to NBC News, leaders at three legal services organizations and a private firm said that the children are being served with notices to appear for their court proceedings. Migrant children that appear in court are not entitled to an attorney but rather are given a list of legal services that might help them.
A Health and Human Services spokesperson said on June 26 that the agency is trying to reunite children with either a parent or a sponsor. But they did not provide a timeline for how long that process would take.
Since April, more than 2,000 children have been separated from families.
The Trump administration is refusing to answer questions about how it will reunify migrant families separated at the border, raising concerns it will fail to comply with an order to swiftly return children to their parents #tictocnews @aawayne pic.twitter.com/cO2Js32vn2
— TicToc by Bloomberg (@tictoc) June 29, 2018
The “zero tolernace” policy, announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in April, ordered the criminal prosecution of anyone who enters the U.S. illegally. Such crossing were formally handled as civil matters allowing families to stay together. President Trump signed an executive order to keep migrant families together after outrage forced him to change his policy.