A 1-year-old baby boy arrived at a court without his parents and waited an hour to see the judge. At first, the little boy drank milk from a bottle and played with a small purple ball. But as he was leaving the court, he started “crying hysterically.”
The baby’s name was Johan and he was separated from his father under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, although it is not confirmed when. His father was then deported back to Honduras after officials promised him he would be reunited with his baby.
“I don’t know who you would explain it to, unless you think that a 1-year-old could learn immigration law,” said an embarrassed Judge John Richardson to Johan’s attorney.
Johan is just one of the “lucky” migrant children because he was at least appointed an attorney by the court. The baby first remained in the custody of Department of Health and Human Services in Arizona but was fortunately granted a voluntary departure so the U.S. government could fly him back to his home country and to his father.
Johan was just one of the children who showed up in the Arizona court on Friday. Some were so little and nervous they could not talk. One little boy held up five fingers when the judge asked him his age.
However, not all children separated by the Trump administration have a court-appointed attorney or even a reunion with their parents.
Immigration advocates have voiced concerns children are, understandably, stressed and frightened in courts. The courts are also not designed for children, many of whose feet can’t even touch the floor while sitting and who can’t see over defense tables without a cushion.
“There are no booster seats ... no teddy bears. It’s a cold immigration court, and these kids are sitting in chairs that are too big for them; their feet don’t even touch the floor,” immigration attorney Lindsay Toczlowski said.
Around 3,700 migrant children have been taken away from their parents and 100 of them are under the age of 5, according to HHS. A New York Times report revealed some records linking children to migrant parents may be lost or even deliberately destroyed, which raises the concerns that some kids may never see their families again. The authorities are now resorting to DNA tests to identify parents and children, which poses another set of problems.
A federal judge has ordered the Trump administration to reunite all children with their parents by July 26. However, HHS lawyers are asking for extensions arguing federal officials shouldn’t be required to reunite children with parents who have been deported already.
Banner/Thumbnail Credits: Reuters/Loren Elliott