In the wake of the federal judge’s order for immigrant children and parents separated by the government to be reunited, the Texas Tribune reports that children as young as three are being forced to attend their immigration hearings by themselves.
“We were representing a 3-year-old in court recently who had been separated from the parents,” Lindsay Toczylowski, executive director of Immigrant Defenders Law Center in Los Angeles, told the Tribune on Thursday. “And the child—in the middle of the hearing—started climbing up on the table. It really highlighted the absurdity of what we’re doing with these kids.”
According to the Tribune, the horrific act of requiring minors to go through deportation unaccompanied is not a new procedure. But as the Tribune also notes, the Trump administration’s recent family separation policy has made matters more extreme, with an increased number of young children—and toddlers—being affected. Toczlowski also stated that typically parents will be tried alongside their kids, but thanks to Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy, this hasn’t been the case.
“The parent might be the only one who knows why they fled from the home country, and the child is in a disadvantageous position to defend themselves,” Toczylowski added.
On Tuesday, the White House was ordered by a federal judge to reunite families within two weeks if their child is under five and a month if the child is older.
“We don’t know how the judge’s order is going to play out with reunification of children,” Cynthia Milian, a Texas-based attorney at the Powers Law Group, told the Tribune. “What if parents have already been deported?”
The Tribune adds that U.S. Department of Health and Human Services officials are working to follow the federal judges’ orders, though they didn’t specify when it would happen. During a media call, Jonathan White, HHS’ assistant secretary for preparedness and response, reportedly said that they “are working across agencies for reunification of each child with [a] parent or family as soon as that is practical.”