In another installment of America’s ongoing series“Hmm That Seems Illegal and Also Dumb as Shit,” the U.S. government is reportedly dragging toddlers to court—yes, toddlers—for immigration hearings.
The Texas Tribune and Kaiser Health News report that they’ve been told by lawyers in D.C., Texas, and California that kids as old as 17 and as young as three are being hauled into immigration court without a guardian. There, they are given no legal help on behalf of the government, save for a list of legal organizations, which some of them can’t read. Because they’re babies:
Leaders at three legal services organizations and a private firm confirmed that the children are being served with notices to appear in court. They are not entitled to an attorney but rather are given a list of legal services organizations that might help them.
Steve Lee, a UCLA child psychology professor, said expecting the children to advocate for themselves in court is an “incredibly misaligned expectation.”
“That couldn’t be any less developmentally appropriate,” he said, adding that some children may not be mature enough to verbalize a response.
If this sounds incredibly stupid in theory, it’s even worse in practice. “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 of the LA-based Immigrant Defenders Law Center told the Tribune. “It really highlighted the absurdity of what we’re doing with these kids.
“The kids don’t understand the intricacies that are involved with deportation and immigration court,” Toczylowski added, which makes sense considering some of them are three fucking years old. “They do understand that they have been separated from their parents, and the primary goal is to get back with people they love.”
Adding to the uncertainty for immigration attorneys, according to the Tribune, is a ruling from a federal court in California earlier this week which ordered that the Trump administration stop separating kids, and that it reunite the more than 2,000 already separated and incarcerated children with their families.
“We don’t know how the judge’s order is going to play out with reunification of children,” Texas immigration attorney Cynthia Milian told the Tribune. “What if parents have already been deported?”
Meanwhile, as the Tribune notes, this experience—like most of the others that the Trump administration is needlessly putting these children through—is probably going to fuck up these kids for a long time.
“It’s certainly grossly inappropriate,” Dr. Bernard Dreyer, the director of Pediatrics at Bellevue Hospital Center in New York, told the Tribune. “I’m ashamed that we’re doing this.”