This Judge Thinks 3-Year-Olds Can Represent Themselves in Immigration Court

Lead Photo: AP Photo/Lynne Sladky
AP Photo/Lynne Sladky
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Despite the fact that grown-ass adults can’t navigate the legal system on their own (duh, that’s why we have lawyers), Jack H. Weil – a immigration judge – is confident that children as young as 3 can represent themselves in immigration court. And he’s so sure young children can act as their own lawyers that in a deposition he made these claims twice, The Washington Post reports.

“I’ve taught immigration law literally to 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds,” he said in a sworn testimony. “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 testified in a case where the American Civil Liberties and immigrant rights groups are trying to make having appointed counsel a requirement. While Weil went on about how it’s possible to have a “fair hearing” with toddlers representing themselves, others probably gave themselves whiplash from SMH-ing so hard.

“I nearly fell off my chair when I read that deposition,” said Laurence Steinberg, a psychology professor at Temple University and witness for the plaintiffs in the case. “Three- and 4-year-olds do not yet have logical reasoning abilities. It’s preposterous, frankly, to think they could be taught enough about immigration law to be able to represent themselves in court.”

Even if children were capable of being competent pro se litigants, it’s not exactly the most well-thought out plan. (Who would teach these children? Would it be in Spanish? How long would it take?)

In an email to the Post, Weil wrote that his comments don’t “present an accurate assessment of my views on this topic” and they were “taken out of context.” He couldn’t further elaborate without the Justice Department’s permission, but we can’t wait to see how he tries to explain what most definitely sounds like him saying that 3-year-olds should face an immigration judge on their own to fight for their futures.