Putting TRAC to Work
  News Organizations
The Hill
March 10, 2016

Children representing themselves in court
By Olga Byrne

Last week, Judge Jack H. Weil, a senior Justice Department official responsible for training other judges, suggested in a court deposition that three-year olds can represent themselves in immigration court. “I’ve taught immigration law literally to 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds,” Weil said. This is an alarming statement, to say the least. It’s even more alarming in the context of a federal litigation in the Western District of Washington where the government is arguing that it can effectively protect children’s due process rights without providing them a lawyer in deportation proceedings. The number of unaccompanied children in deportation proceedings has increased in recent years with the arrival of thousands from Central America. But only about half have lawyers even though experts have long likened immigration law to the tax code in complexity, with some calling it Kafkaesque. The impact of counsel on the likelihood of success is substantial. According to government data analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, children who are unrepresented are ordered deported 90 percent of the time. Those with a lawyer are five times more likely to be granted relief by an immigration judge. A study of asylum applications before the Asylum Office by researchers at Georgetown University supports this conclusion, finding that while legal counsel is the most significant factor in asylum applications generally, it has an even greater impact in cases involving younger applicants.

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, Syracuse University
Copyright 2016
TRAC TRAC at Work TRAC TRAC at Work News Organizations News Organizations