Toddlers Separated From Parents Are Being Forced to Appear in Immigration Court Alone

ICE is requiring children, even those below the age of five, to appear before an immigration judge alone after being separated from their parents at the border.

Many of us probably wake up these days hoping things don’t get any worse than they already are. Between the racist 911 calls, immigration crisis, and Muslim ban, it couldn’t possibly get more awful than this, right? Wrong.

After the Trump administration decided to forcibly separate parents from their children at the border, ICE is now making these children, including toddlers, appear before immigration judges unaccompanied.

“We were representing a 3-year-old in court recently who had been separated from the parents. And the child—in the middle of the hearing—started climbing up on the table,” Lindsay Toczylowski, executive director of Immigrant Defenders Law Center in Los Angeles, told the Texas Tribune. “It really highlighted the absurdity of what we’re doing with these kids.”

Trump signed an executive order last week to halt the practice of separating children from their caregivers, but there are still families that remain separated. On Tuesday, a federal judge ordered the Trump administration to reunite these families within the next 30 days, or less if the child is under five, but few actually know how that process will work, especially for children whose parents have already been deported. “We don’t know how the judge’s order is going to play out with reunification of children. What if parents have already been deported?” said Cynthia Milian, a Texas-based attorney at the Powers Law Group. 

It’s not new for children, especially those who cross the border alone, to go to immigration court on their own, but “more young children—including toddlers—are being affected than in the past,” according to the Tribune.  

Were it not so tragic, it’s almost comical to think that these children would be able to defend themselves in court, let alone explain why they left their homes in the first place. “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 remarked. 

Others argue going to court alone only compacts the trauma young children have already experienced since being separated from their parents and detained. “It’s certainly grossly inappropriate,” said Dr. Benard Dreyer, director of the division of developmental-behavioral pediatrics at New York University School of Medicine. “I’m ashamed that we’re doing this.”

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