Wednesday, August 29, 2012

What Kind of Nation Hauls Six Year Olds Before A Court with No Parents or Lawyers, and No One to Help Them?

ChinaRussiaIranNorth Korea?  - No, It’s the United States

That U. S. immigration policy is a disaster is a given.  Even Mitt Romney has flip-flopped, no longer calling for ‘self deportation’ now that he has the anti-immigrant conservative vote locked up and needs pro-decency immigration vote to win the election.  Mr. Obama has made a major contribution to fixing things by using an executive order to allow children who have been raised in the United States to stay here.

But the policy of ‘catch and don’t release’ with respect to border policing still has major problems.  Consider this situation.

The immigrant who was facing deportation rose to his feet, in a clean T-shirt and khaki pants several sizes too large, with his name — JUAN — printed on a tag around his neck.

But the judge could not see him. Juan’s head did not rise above the court’s wooden benches.

Juan David Gonzalez was 6 years old. He was in the court, which would decide whether to expel him from the country, without a parent — and also without a lawyer.

Apparently thousands of children are traveling thousands of miles to try and reach the United States.  How are they getting here?

The young people, mostly from Mexico and Central America, ride to the border on the roofs of freight trains or the backs of buses. They cross the Rio Grande on inner tubes, or hike for days through extremes of heat and chill in Arizona deserts. The smallest children, like Juan, are most often brought by smugglers.

Liliana Muñoz, 6, was alone when Border Patrol officers 
caught her as she was being smuggled across the Rio Grande. Now
facing deportation, she’s also alone in Immigration Court without a lawyer.

To Conservatives This is a hardened criminal
To Decent People This is a Little Girl
And when they are caught (yes it is not that hard to catch a six year old) they face this.

Unlike in criminal or family courts, in immigration court there is no right to a lawyer paid by the government for people who cannot afford one. And immigration law contains few protections specifically for minors. So even a child as young as Juan has to go before an immigration judge — confronting a prosecutor and trying to fight deportation — without the help of a lawyer, if one is not privately provided.

So why can’t something be done, why can’t a decent and humane policy be developed?  The answer of course is politics.  Mr. Obama does not have the political courage or the political capital.   He cannot afford the charge of ‘coddling illegal immigrants’ (never mind if they are six years old) and Mr. Romney really doesn’t care because it is not an issue he can exploit for votes and also because he really doesn't care for any reason.

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