It looks like Presidential candidate Donald Trump isn’t the only one being ignorant about immigration. The Washington Post reported Senior Justice Department Official, Jack Weil, claims that three and four year olds can be taught immigration law with “a lot of time and patience” well enough to represent themselves in court.
His comments were made during a deposition in a federal case in Seattle in reference to the trial of immigrant minors crossing the border from Central America. Despite his later backtracking, where he said in an email his statements did not “present an accurate assessment of my views on this topic” and “were taken out of context.” The attorney that questioned him in court, Ahilan Arulanantham, maintains that: “he [Weil] obviously meant what he said.”
Weil’s comments are part of a growing debate as to whether immigrant children should be allowed access to legal representation funded by US tax payers. Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and other Democrats have introduced a bill this month that mandates pro bono counsel for children who have crossed the border alone or as victims of abuse, torture and violence. However, the Justice Department is not here for this change, stating: “Nothing in the Constitution requires the taxpayers to provide counsel to minors in immigration court.”
Children in these immigration cases are facing the same charges as adults for entering the country illegally or overstaying their visas. Most of them need a translator and cannot speak English, let alone grasp the big words being asked of them in court. Certain lines of questioning can also restrict their rights to asylum if answered incorrectly. Psychology Professor, Laurence Steinberg, labeled Weil’s comments “preposterous” and confirmed that children below five “do not yet have logical reasoning abilities.” He said he “nearly fell off his chair” when he heard Weil’s deposition.
Lauren Alder Reid, from the Executive Office for Immigration Review, does not agree with Weil either: “At no time has the Department indicated that three and four year olds are capable of representing themselves. Jack Weil was speaking in a personal capacity and his statements, therefore, do not necessarily represent the views of EOIR or the Department of Justice.” It’s sad that in tackling this immigration “problem” even children are up for exploitation.