Federal immigration court no.14 had one of the youngest children attending court for a case. The child had to be carried and placed on a chair, with the judge finding it difficult to suppress her expression. The little child could not even leave her legs to dangle from the chair, with the legs only sticking out of the chair. Unsure of what had to be done, the child rolled her fists and placed them under her knees. She was a little bit confident in her chair till the time that the caseworker was beside her. The moment the case worker left her side, the child lost her self control and almost burst into tears with her emotions of insecurity clearly evident on her face.
All of 02 years of age, the child Fernanda Jacqueline Davila had a very long story and journey. The case worker was from the shelter where the girl was entrusted for care, after having been separated from her grandmother. The caseworker happened to be the only person who the child had ever seen or interacted with in the room, since her separation from her grandmother in the month of July at the border.
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The judge who happened to notice the child’s discomfort permitted the case worker to take his place beside the child, after which the child stopped crying. The judge then proceeded to ask the child her age and if she spoke Spanish. The questions were interpreted to her in Spanish and she did not actually say much, other than nodding her head as if in confirmation. The Judge in the Federal Immigration Court Room no. 14 had to handle 30 such cases on the day, with little Fernanda being the 26th in a long line of children who were aged between 2 to 17 years of age.
The Judge occupied the bench for the last six years, coinciding with the same time when children were beginning to appear at the border, moving in from Central America. After the administration tightened up the processes, there were more children in government custody with their stay in shelters extending from days into months. The shelters were never in fact meant to be homes for such children, especially for extended stays.
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As a result of this, there are more and more children coming to court across America. While there are no official figures about the number of such children, the lawyers who work with these migrants are of the opinion that the numbers are significantly high.
Till date the courts rarely had children below the age of 06 years, but of late there have been younger and younger children. This was stated by the president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, Ashley Tabaddor, who went on to say that the judges began seeing more children regularly in the courts.
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The impact on these children may be significant, caught between the administration which is keen to ensure that illegal immigrants are kept away, and the number of children who accompany their families who try to enter America illegally.