Thousands of children some just babies have separated from their parents by the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy and are waiting to be reunited. In the meantime, they are being forced into courtrooms to facing deportation proceedings alone without even legal representation.
A nightmarish story release by Associated Press over the weekend details the scene in one of those hearings, where a one-year-old boy was escorted to appear before an immigration judge in Phoenix, Arizona, on Friday.
Johan came with his father to the United States from Honduras seeking asylum. They were seized by immigration at the border and separated. Johan’s father, according to the boy’s attorney, was deported from the United States voluntarily by being coerced with the false promise that he’d be able to leave with his son. The child’s mother is also in Honduras. Johan is currently in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services. The U.S. government lied, what’s new now that we have a pathological President?
Johan “drank milk from a bottle” and “played with a small purple ball that lit up when it hit the ground” as he awaited his hearing, according to the AP. He also occasionally asked for “agua,” and at one point during the hearing, he appeared with socks but no shoes.
During the hearing, immigration judge John Richardson said he was “embarrassed” to ask the child if he understood the proceedings. “I’m embarrassed to ask it because I don’t know who you would explain it to unless you think that a 1-year-old could learn immigration law,” Richardson told the child’s lawyer. After the hearing, the child “cried hysterically” as he was handed off between adults.
Congress passed laws making children in immigration proceedings not entitled to legal representation. About 90 percent of migrant children without a lawyer are ultimately deported, according to Kids in Need of Defense, a Texas-based group that provides legal representation to migrant children.
The Trump administration has until Tuesday to reunite children under the age of five with their families under a recent order by a federal judge in San Diego, and until July 26 to reunite all others. The Trump administration has asked for a blanket extension of the deadline, but the judge indicated last week that extensions would be granted on a case-by-case basis.
The judge who heard Johan’s case granted him a voluntary departure order, which would allow the federal government to fly him back to Honduras and be reunited with his parents. However, he could elect to find the child’s eligible for asylum and has the power to not only sanction the government but refer the accused coercion of the father for investigation by the Justice Department.