The Obama Administration’s argument that undocumented minors taken in front of immigration judges do not need a lawyer is absurd. The Department of Justice defends this position saying that legal advice in these cases is not required by the Constitution the way it is when crimes are being tried. Given this, can it be expected that a 4-year-old will be able to defend him or herself?
The answer, according to the testimony of immigration judge Jack H.Weil, is yes. In two occasions during his sworn testimony in a deposition in federal court taken by American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) attorneys, the justice repeated that he has “taught immigration law literally to 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds.” The organization and immigrant rights groups have filed a lawsuit seeking require the government to provide appointed counsel to indigent children being processed for deportation.
Weil’s statement that a child is capable of learning enough about law to ‒ aided by a translator ‒ face Homeland Security attorneys who want to expel him or her out of the country defies all logic. Worse yet, is the fact that he is Assistant Chief Immigration Judge at the Office of the Chief Immigration Judge, which coordinates and supervises 58 immigration courts throughout the country. His job is to specifically train other justices to deal with “sensitive” populations such as children.
Weil’s testimony was so outrageous that the Department of Justice ‒ which had appointed him to testify in its favor ‒ distanced itself from his statements saying that they were the judge’s personal opinion and that they did not represent the federal agency.
This confirms the barbarity of what is currently happening in immigration courts, where a 4-year-old is expected to put together a defense explaining why he or she deserves asylum. Weil’s testimony is the best argument in favor of the ACLU lawsuit and of the bill introduced by a group of Democratic legislators that would allow children to have legal counsel paid for by the U.S. government. People who oppose this law believe that money is more important than the legal aberration that is going on at the moment.
As much as the government can distance itself from Weil’s statement, it cannot ignore the fact that it is an accomplice to this barbarity by allowing this judge to remain on a position where he is teaching other justices to handle cases where children are involved. The White House should be ashamed of having judges such as Weil holding this kind of position.