La Oferta

December 5, 2023

Children as young as 1 forced to appear before US immigration court

Immigrant & Community Leaders participate in the rally outside the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children in Homestead, Florida, USA on 23 June 2018. Supporters hold a large march and rally in support of separated families outside a detention camp for minors whose parents are being prosecuted under Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy. EFE

Tucson, Arizona, Jul 9 (EFE).- The fact that many undocumented immigrants are under the age of 5 does not deter the Trump administration’s immigration courts from admitting the minors, in many cases without a lawyer.

“(Some) children are so young, that when you ask them, ‘What’s your dad’s name?’ they respond by saying ‘dad’,” Yliana Johansen-Mendez, an attorney with the Los Angeles-based Immigrant Defenders Law Center, told EFE.

Since April, as part of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy on illegal immigration, children are separated from their parents as soon as they cross the US border.

“We used to have 14- or 15-year-olds who were able to state their case in court, but now, with the family separations we have been having at the border, we are seeing cases involving even younger children, children who can barely say their own names,” Johansen-Mendez said.

She also said that children – including toddlers as young as 1 – are taken to court in groups of between 10 and 15.

Amid social outrage over the separations, a California federal judge ruled in favor of reuniting some 3,000 children with their parents.

Johansen-Mendez – who, along with her colleagues acts as a friend of the court so that the minors do not have to face the prospect of being deported on their own – requests more time on behalf of the children, arguing that they are in process of being reunited with their families or being put under the care of a legal guardian.

“I honestly thing that many of them don’t even understand that they are in an immigration court,” the lawyer said. “Courts are cold places, where you only see a judge, the prosecutor and the interpreters.”