Toddlers can represent themselves, immigration judge claims

Three and four year olds can understand immigration law enough to go to court and represent themselves, according to a senior official in the US Justice Department. Longtime immigration judge, Jack H Weil, is facing a storm of criticism and mockery following the assertion he made under sworn testimony while being deposed in a Seattle federal court.

“I’ve taught immigration law literally to three-year-olds and four-year-olds,” Weil claimed. “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.” Weil’s assertions were ridiculed both by legal experts and child psychologists, noting that using building blocks, speaking simple sentences and co-operating with other kids were the milestones for the great majority of children in that age group.

Temple University psychology professor, Laurence Steinberg, called Weil’s comments “preposterous”, noting that children of those ages have not yet developed any ability for logical reasoning and there was no way such youngsters could be taught enough regarding immigration law to actually be able to speak for themselves in a court of law.

Weil’s deposition was made as part of a case seeking to make the US government provide legal counsel to immigrant children who cannot afford legal advice in immigration cases being brought by immigrant rights groups and the American Civil Liberties Union. The lawsuit is being contested by the Justice Department. In a statement issued by the Executive Office for Immigration Reviews, spokeswoman Lauren Alder Reid said that Weil’s views are not necessarily shared by the Justice Department.