Migrant kids under age 6 now a ‘regular presence’ in courtrooms, says immigration judge
In fact, “we rarely had children under the age of 6 until the last year or so,” said Ashley Tabaddor, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges. “We started seeing them as a regular presence in our docket.”
One of these children is Fernanda Jacqueline Davila. She’s just 2 years old and “so small she had to be lifted into the chair.” She was torn from her grandmother at the U.S./Mexico border this past July due to the Trump administration’s barbaric “zero tolerance” policy, and has been in U.S. custody since. “How old are you?” Do you speak Spanish?” the judge asked. Fernanda didn’t answer back after her interpreter whispered into her ear in Spanish. “She’s … she’s nodding her head,” the judge replied.
It’s unclear how many of the kids who appeared in immigration court that day had an attorney, but immigrant children do appear in court alone because unlike the criminal court system, the law does not guarantee representation to immigrants in immigration court, even if they are children. According to data from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University, last year only 33 percent of unaccompanied kids had representation.
The record number of migrant children under U.S. custody comes as Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III is using his vast power as attorney general to rig immigration courts against immigrants, including stomping on the asylum claims of women escaping domestic and gang violence in Central America. “While other Attorneys General have been careful not to abuse their broad authority over the immigration courts,” DHS Watch reported, “Sessions is turning back the clock.”
Meanwhile, nearly 13,000 other migrant children, many in a Texas prison camp, wait to hear about their own future.