Tuesday, March 15, 2016
Trending Toward SCOTUS: Immigration Courts Encourage Pro Se Toddlers
The Civil Right to Counsel (Civil Gideon) is making inroads in the national discussion. The case reported below may move this issue to the U.S. Supreme Court.
J.E.F.M v Lynch (previously Holder) challenges the government's failure to meet the fundamental right of children to appointed counsel. The ACLU filed suit in federal court in Seattle. The complaint can be found here. The government's position seeps from absurdity to cruelty.
John Pollock of the National Coalition for the Civil Right to Counsel reports that a Washington Post story discussing the case has received huge coverage because one of the government’s experts Judge Jack H. Weil, a longtime immigration judge, testified that "3- and 4-year-olds can learn immigration law well enough to represent themselves in court.” According to the Post, Judge Weil stated at his deposition "I have taught immigration law literally to three year olds and four year olds. It takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of patience. They get it. It is not the most efficient but it can be done. You can do a fair hearing. It's going to take you a lot of time." Scarily, toddlers are not the only ones that Judge Weil trains. In his senior position, Judge Weil is responsible for coordinating training for all immigration judges.
Pollock reports that a NY Times editorial entitled “Migrant Children Deserve a Voice” responded to this absurd assertion and supported a right to counsel for all children in these proceedings. And Senator Reid has filed a bill, the Fair Day In Court For Kids Act, that would require counsel for children.
Editors' Note: Tomorrow's post by Risa Kaufman continues this discussion, addressing the case's procedural process and the impact of international human rights law.