April 13, 2017
Boomers, Seniors... you know that thought you get.
A feller younger than your youngest grandchild starts to explain your medication to you at the pharmacy window. And he's the pharmacist.
A sweet lil' lady in the same age bracket comes in to perform your minor surgery, because your PCP is on vacation. You can't help thinking that 92% of people in her age bracket don't know-- or care-- that there are 50 states. Can name only six... and one of them is “Pittsburgh..”
Should you have the grave misfortune of needing to fight the law, the judge introduces you to your public defender. He's younger than the kid who mows your lawn.
He isn't OLD enough to have read Traffic Defense for Dummies. It's too many PAGES. Especially when you move your lips while you read.
Okay. So picture yourself in a REAL fix. You're in this country illegally. (Not your fault; you were brought here.) You don't speak English. You can't see over the top of the desk. They're going to send you back to Can'tStandItStan if you don't give them a REEEEALLY good song and dance about letting you stay.
And your attorney?
Sorry, you poor mook. Your attorney is 3 years old.
That's right. Three years old. And that's not the worst of it. Your attorney ALSO is here illegally, can't understand English, and can't see over the top of the desk.
Because....YOU ARE YOUR OWN ATTORNEY.
Welcome to the Twilight Zone. For real.
I am, of course, not making this up.
Brace yourself. From ThinkProgress, March 4, 2016:
“Immigrant children trying to stay in the United States are often left to defend themselves against a team of skilled government lawyers in court proceedings because they are not entitled to legal counsel. Now, one immigration judge is claiming that three and four-year-olds can learn immigration law well enough to represent themselves, the Washington Post reported.
“I’ve taught immigration law literally to 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds,’’ Jack H. Weil, an immigration judge, said in sworn testimony in a deposition in Seattle, Washington federal court, according to the publication. “It takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of patience. They get it. It’s not the most efficient, but it can be done.’’
He made the claim twice more in the deposition, stating, “I’ve told you I have trained 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds in immigration law. You can do a fair hearing. It’s going to take you a lot of time.’’
Welcome to Fright Night. For real.
I sat on this story for a year. I mean, everybody's had a suspicious boil-like thingy erupt on their leg or something and thought, Surely This Will Resolve Itself.
After a year or so, sure. Take it to the Emergency Room and explain why you ignored it until it grew two heads.
So I assumed that it would be all ironed out by now.
An estimated 40 percent of these children are likely eligible for some form of relief from removal. Although staying in the Refugee Resettlement Shelters doesn't sound like a picnic.
There IS a really encouraging article from April of 2016...link below...from the Charlotte Observer.
“Children arriving in the Carolinas are luckier than most. When an unexpected flood of more than 2,000 children arrived in North Carolina last year, Charlotte-area nonprofit Legal Services of Southern Piedmont understood the critical and immediate need for legal assistance. Research shows that nine out of 10 children without representation are deported, while almost half with representation are allowed to remain in the United States with their guardian. Without adequate representation, children who may have had a viable form of relief are subject to deportation without having a fighting chance. LSSP was positioned and committed to change that. And our community was in a position to respond in an inspiring and noble way.
Supported by local lawyer associations and law firms, private pro bono attorneys, foundations and community supporters, LSSP quickly created the Safe Child Immigrant Project. LSSP leadership raised local financial support to match a national funder which provided for the immediate hiring of three full-time bilingual immigration attorneys. Local pro bono attorneys were also trained to assist in these cases.
More than 250 children have been provided legal representation to help them avoid deportation back to a life of squalor, abuse, and gang death threats. Despite this progress, nearly 2,000 children remain on the court’s docket.”
(Author's note: the “Carolinas” are TWO of the 50 states.)
Have things even gotten better in a year? Well, no. From the New York Times:
“The number of children in shelters changes daily, said Victoria Palmer, a spokeswoman for the Office of Refugee Resettlement. As of Aug. 1, 7,900 unaccompanied children were under federal government supervision, with 2,300 beds still available in the shelters, she said.
The challenge has been helping these children once they go to court.
“Our waiting list got to be so long, it wasn’t fair to put anyone else on a waiting list,” said Sara Van Hofwegen, a lawyer who represents unaccompanied children for Public Counsel, a public-interest law firm in Los Angeles. “We tell the kids, ‘Sorry, call in six months, call some other time.’ It’s pretty common they’ll call five, six places and none of them is accepting new cases.
….”Every week in immigration courts around the country, thousands of children act as their own lawyers, pleading for asylum or other type of relief in a legal system they do not understand."
Suspected killers, kidnappers and others facing federal felony charges, no matter their ages, are entitled to court-appointed lawyers if they cannot afford them. But children accused of violating immigration laws, a civil offense, do not have the same right. In immigration court, people face charges from the government, but the government has no obligation to provide lawyers for poor children and adults, as it does in criminal cases, legal experts say.”
I don't pretend to know what we should do about these children. But I do know they are vulnerable and helpless and really need heroes.
So. If you have training and education in the law, and if you think you would like to help, here is a way to make a meaningful difference. One child at a time.
Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/opinion/op-ed/article69467802.html#storylink=cpy https://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/21/us/in-immigration-court-children-must-serve-as-their-own-lawyers.html https://thinkprogress.org/judge-claims-immigrant-toddlers-are-able-to-represent-themselves-fairly-in-court-8e05971460b1