U.S. immigration judge says three-year-olds can represent themselves in court
At three years old, most children are moving around on their own, talking in full sentences, and learning the alphabet. But one senior immigration judge in the United States thinks they're also old enough to understand immigration law well enough for them to represent themselves in immigration court.
Ahilan Arulanantham is the lawyer who took the deposition, which was made public recently, in 2015.
I have to do a case-by-case basis. I've taught immigration law literally to three and four-year-olds. It takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of patience. They get it. - Honourable Jack H. Weil
Weil is a senior immigration judge responsible for the training of other judges across the country. That has members of the ACLU concerned, including the lawyer who conducted the deposition.
"He (Weil) told me that he himself had trained three and four-year-olds in immigration law," Ahilan Arulanantham, deputy legal director of the ACLU of Southern California, tells As it Happens guest host Helen Mann.
"That position is preposterous, but that is the position of the federal government, and it's actually what they do in deportation hearings every day."
.<a href="https://twitter.com/SenatorLeahy">@SenatorLeahy</a>: "I've never heard such a stupid, stupid, stupid thing from a judge or anybody else." <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/immigration?src=hash">#immigration</a><a href="https://t.co/wHfn7QAntf">https://t.co/wHfn7QAntf</a>—@cspan
Arulanantham says in 2014 roughly 60,000 children sought asylum in the United States. Only half of them received legal representation.
Weil later stated that that his quotes were taken out of context. Arulanantham disagrees.
"I asked for clarification and he was unambiguous," says Arulanantham. "He said I have done it, it takes time, it takes patience, but you can give three and four-year-olds fair hearings."
And would you hire a lawyer if your child were facing deportation? I should have asked Judge Weil that question... <a href="https://t.co/i9HHLnByNw">https://t.co/i9HHLnByNw</a>—@ahilan_toolong
Arulanantham says he asked Judge Weil if there were any studies or evidence available that say that three-year-olds are capable of defending themselves in court.
"He said I'm not aware of any studies one way or the other, but I've done it," says Arulanantham.
Arulanantham also says the success rate in court for unrepresented children is extremely low.
"There's a lot of legal complexity in asylum cases and other immigration cases," says Arulanantham.
The full deposition is available on the ACLU's website here.