At age 3, most toddlers know how to play make-believe, turn the pages of a book, and spontaneously show affection for their friends. But can 3-year-olds possibly grasp the fundamentals of the American justice system and defend themselves in court?
Judge Jack Weil believes so, according to The Christian Science Monitor. The Virginia-based judge is a key witness supporting the US government’s position that unaccompanied migrant youths don’t need attorneys in immigration court, while immigration advocates argue otherwise.
"I've taught immigration law literally to 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds. It takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of patience," Judge Weil said. "They get it. It's not the most efficient, but it can be done."
The deposition in which Weil says toddlers can defend themselves in court was submitted to the court by the federal government in January. The ACLU posted the transcript on last week.
“Are you aware of any experts in child psychology or comparable experts who agree with the assessment that 3- and 4-year-olds can be taught immigration law?" Ahilan Arulanantham, the deputy legal director of the ACLU of Southern California, asked Weil in the transcript.
"I haven't read any studies one way or another," Weil answered. “I have trained 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds in immigration law,” he later maintained. “You can do a fair hearing."
But even the federal government has questioned the credibility of Weil’s stance. Although the Justice Department is currently in the throes of the lawsuit, spokeswoman Lauren Alder Reid told the Los Angeles Times in a statement that the administration is actually in support of the Congressional legislation providing representation for youth migrants.
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