Children as young as 1 appear in immigration court to be reunited with parents: report

Children as young as 1 appear in immigration court to be reunited with parents: report
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A 1-year-old boy was forced to appear in front of an immigration judge in Phoenix on Friday, according to a report from The Associated Press.

The boy, a Honduran immigrant named Johan, is one of the more than 2,000 children who were separated from their parents under the Trump administration’s "zero tolerance" immigration policy.

The AP reported that Johan drank milk from a bottle and “played with a small purple ball that lit up when it hit the ground” as he waited with an attorney ahead of his court appearance.

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Immigration Judge John W. Richardson, who presided over the boy’s case, told the lawyer representing Johan that he was “embarrassed” to ask if the boy could understand the court 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 said.

Immigrant children do not have the right to court-appointed legal representation, but some are being represented by groups like Kids in Need of Defense. According to the AP, 90 percent of migrant kids without representation are deported to their home countries.  

The judge granted Johan, who is in the custody of the Health and Human Services Department, a voluntary departure order.

Under the order, Johan will be flown to Honduras to be reunited with his parents. He initially was brought to the U.S. with his father, who was reportedly deported alone to their home in Guatemala, despite officials telling him he would be able to leave with Johan, according to the AP.

The AP reported that Johan “cried hysterically” after the hearing as a worker passed him to another person while she collected his diaper bag.

Johan’s court appearance, along with the several other children whose experiences were reported by the AP, comes days before the court-ordered deadline for the Trump administration to reunite children with their parents. A federal judge ruled that the administration has until July 10 to reunite children under 5 years old with their parents.

The Justice Department asked for a blanket extension of the deadline, but a judge appeared to reject that request, saying instead that extensions may be granted on a case-by-case basis this week.