By Attorney Farhad Sethna © 2016
An immigration judge appears to have created education history in a deposition filed in a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups against the US Department of Justice!
The lawsuit is a petition to force the government to provide immigration counsel at no cost to minor children who are otherwise unrepresented in Immigration Court. Under immigration law, aliens are not entitled to publicly funded representation. However, the ACLU is asking the government to make an exception in this case because minors are typically not well educated and do not have a grasp of the legal system. Therefore, they could not be expected to meaningfully participate in their defense against deportation.
Many of these minors are small children, including toddlers three and four years old, and some even younger. To have an unrepresented toddler in any situation is unthinkable, but especially more so in a legal setting, where not only are the stakes so high, but the issues involved are more difficult. Keep in mind, an education on the law is not preschool.
It was in the context of this issue that honorable Immigration Judge Jack Weil of Virginia gave a deposition. In the deposition, he stated that unaccompanied minor children did not need legal representation, because their rights could be protected in court.
He said that he personally has taught children as young as three and four years old immigration law. It is not easy he said, but it can be done.
“I’ve taught immigration law literally to 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds. It takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of patience,” Judge Weil said. “They get it. It’s not the most efficient, but it can be done.” (As reported in the Christian Science Monitor, March 6, 2016).
As incredible as it may seem, Judge Weil continued to defend his ability to teach young children, none of whom speak English, the intricacies of immigration law sufficient for them to defend themselves.
“I have trained 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds in immigration law….You can do a fair hearing.”
If this is indeed true, then Judge Weil is on to something even bigger than teaching immigration law. Imagine if we could duplicate Judge Weil’s method to other areas of education! Perhaps we could have cardiac surgeons as young as six, or physicists as young as ten. The next Steve Jobs- at the tender age of eight!
Underscoring the absurdity of Judge Weil’s claim is the very fact that those of us who are parents (as biased as we may be) know the limitations of our children. Yes, they may be incredible, wonderful, intelligent, vivacious, and articulate. But to defend oneself at the age of three or four in a legal setting? Please. That’s material for another fairy tale – one that will certainly not have a happy ending.
About the author: Attorney Farhad Sethna has practiced law for over 20 years. Since 1996, he has been an adjunct professor of Immigration Law at the University of Akron, School of Law, in Akron, Ohio. He is a frequent speaker at Continuing Legal Education and professional development seminars on various immigration-related topics. His practice is limited to immigration and small business. With offices in Cuyahoga Falls, Akron and Dover, Ohio, Attorney Sethna represents clients in all types of immigration cases. Our number is: (330)-384-8000. Please send your general immigration questions to AttorneySethna@immigration-america.com. We will try to answer as many questions as possible.
This is only general legal information. Please consult a qualified immigration attorney for advice on your specific case.