Senator Patrick Leahy had some choice words about a recent statement from immigration Judge Jack Weil, who claimed that toddlers as young as three, with some “patience,” could be taught enough immigration law to represent themselves before a judge in immigration court.
“I’ve been on this committee for decades, a lawyer for decades, I’ve never heard such a stupid, stupid, stupid thing from a judge or anybody else as that,” the Huffington Post reports Senator Leahy said at a Judiciary Committee hearing.
The Senator added Weil’s claim is “a mark against this country” and that “it is a bad, bad image for a judge who would say something that stupid, that reprehensible, to be the face of the United States.”
According to HuffPo, “Leahy said he thinks he would have fired the judge ‘on the spot.’”
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Having representation often makes the difference between asylum and deportation for women and children. Children with representation were allowed to remain in the U.S. in nearly three-quarters of cases from 2012 to 2014 analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. Children going before judges alone were allowed to stay in only 15 percent of cases.
There are outside groups and some governmental efforts to provide children and others with pro bono lawyers, but they can’t meet demand. Apprehensions of families and unaccompanied children, most of them seeking asylum from Central American countries, surged in 2014. Many are still in removal proceedings. Numbers are high again this fiscal year, with about 20,500 unaccompanied children and 24,600 family units apprehended from October to the end of January.
“Turning our backs on Central American families and unaccompanied children, as some congressional Republicans have proposed, would be a grave mistake,” noted Senator Harry Reid, who recently introduced the “Fair Day In Court For Kids Act.”
“Providing due process protections to children should be something we can all agree on.”
As for Judge Weil, Senator Leahy questioned Attorney General Loretta Lynch during the Judiciary Committee hearing about his remarks. Lynch responded she shared “puzzlement” over Weil’s claim that a three-year-old can understand anything about immigration law.
“I’m not puzzled by it,” the Senator responded more bluntly. “It’s sheer anger.”