A federal court judge from Virginia said that young migrants as young as three years old already have the capacity to defend themselves in an immigration court. The judge made the statement during deposition case regarding the need to appoint attorneys to migrants who are facing deportation.
According to the Los Angeles Times, there is still no guarantee of both adult and young migrants will be entitled to receive legal counsel in courts. Of course, without proper legal representation and knowledge regarding the immigration matter, the chances of refugees not getting kicked out of the U.S. are pretty slim.
This is why various rights groups and lawmakers have pushed for a bill that would require the government to appoint lawyers to both children and adult refugees who left their countries due to torture, abuse and other forms of violence.
But, during a deposition hearing, Judge Jack Weil, who also served as a witness, said that there is no need to appoint an attorney even for young children since they are more than capable of handling themselves in court.
"I've taught immigration law literally to 3-year olds and 40 year-olds," he said in court. "It takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of patience."
"They get it," he added. "It's not the most efficient, but it can be done."
Immediately after Weil's statements went public, the immigration judge, who also trains other judges, was criticized by psychology experts.
"I nearly fell off my chair when I read that deposition," Laurence Steinberg, a Temple University psychology professor said according to the Washington Post. "Three and four-year-olds do not yet have logical reasoning abilities."
"It's preposterous, frankly, to think they could be taught enough about immigration law to be able to represent themselves in court," he added.
Of course, aside from the lack of fully developed reasoning abilities, these young refugees came from countries torn by war and regions where violence, poverty and exploitation are rampant. Combined with the perilous journey to the U.S., all these factors certainly have some form of effect on their physical, mental and social conditions.
In other words, these children probably need rearing programs more than being subjected to learn about the intricate details of immigration law.