A federal judge delayed the deadline set for Tuesday to reunite the migrant children under five-years-old with their parents, as there is a shortage of resources and lack of legal representation to meet the deadline.
Ally Bolour is an immigration lawyer with offices in Palm Springs and Los Angeles, he said the lack of resources have prompted migrants to represent themselves in court, in some cases toddlers are facing a judge alone. He said these cases are too complex for an adult or child to serve as their own legal adviser.
Bolour said, “It’s like a regular court, there is a judge with a robe on, there is a government council doing the government’s job which is typically deport people or remove people, that’s their job.”
But immigration court is not like criminal court.
Immigration court is not overseen by the judicial branch, it is part of the executive branch, and unlike criminal court, where public defenders may be provided, immigration court does not.
Bolour said, “In immigration court, if there’s no private counsel, there’s no public defender so essentially the person is on his or her own.”
A federal judge ruled to reunite children under 5 year of age by July 10, but a different judge granted an extension of the deadline. However, with tight resources and difficult access to lawyers, toddlers are having to be their own legal council in immigration court.
Bolour said, “And I don’t know how a one-year-old who can’t even speak, they shouldn’t even be there.”
Non profit organization such as Raices Texas are helping give access to legal representation and even helping reunite families, but the reunion does not always happen inside the United States.
Jennifer Falcon is a spokesperson for Raices Texas, she said the organization’s volunteers helped unite a family from El Salvador.
“They told him if he signed deportation papers, he would get her back,” Falcon said. “He was then deported without his daughter and we were able to re-unite them by working with the Salvadorian government and she was sent back to El Salvador.”
The Trump administration said they use DNA testing to reunite the families, but that is a solution some see as a problem.
Bolour said, “Alarm bells go on in my head, who’s going to keep these records, now the government has a database of people’s DNA.”
The judge who granted the deadline extension to reunite families is asking the government’s lawyers to provide on update Tuesday morning in order to grant a new timeline.