Jerry Markon - Can a 3-year old represent herself in immigration court? This judge thinks so.

Can a 3-year old represent herself in immigration court? This judge thinks so.

By Jerry Markon March 5 at 4:57 PM

A senior Justice Department official is arguing that 3- and 4-year-olds can learn immigration law well enough to represent themselves in court, staking out an unconventional position in a growing debate over whether immigrant children facing deportation are entitled to taxpayer-funded attorneys.

Jack H. Weil, a longtime immigration judge who is responsible for training other judges, made the assertion in sworn testimony in a deposition in federal court in Seattle. His comments highlighted the plight of thousands of juveniles who are forced to defend themselves each year in immigration court amid a surge of children from Central America who cross the southwestern U.S. border.

“I’ve taught immigration law literally to 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds,” Weil said. “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 repeated his claim twice in the deposition, also saying, “I’ve told you I have trained 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds in immigration law,” according to a transcript. “You can do a fair hearing. It’s going to take you a lot of time.”

Legal and child-psychology experts ridiculed Weil’s assertions, noting that key milestones for 3- and 4-year-olds include cooperating with other children, saying simple sentences and building towers of blocks.

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