June 22, 2018
By Avery Anapol
An 8-year-old boy who was separated from his father at the border was expected to represent himself in immigration court, according to a new report from The New Yorker.
The boy, named in the report by only his first name, Pedro, did not have legal counsel or a right to a public defender, The New Yorker reported.
Pedro reportedly entered the U.S. with his father last July, and was one of the first migrant children to be separated from their parents under the Trump Administration.
Jennifer Anzardo Valdes, the director of the Children’s Legal Program at nonprofit law firm Americans for Immigrant Justice, told the New Yorker that Pedro has “haunting” memories of being apprehended by immigration officers at the border in Arizona.
Valdes said that Pedro recounts that the officers “threw his father to the ground and stomped on him,” before separating the two. The agents did not speak Pedro’s indigenous Guatemalan language, Acateco.
Pedro was released into the custody of his aunt, and was reportedly expected to represent himself in court after the government filed removal papers to deport him.
Pedro’s aunt contacted Americans for Immigrant Justice for legal aid in navigating the process and searching for Pedro’s father. As of the report’s publication on Friday, they had not uncovered any information about his whereabouts.
Valdes told The New Yorker that her group represents multiple young children who will have to go face-to-face with an immigration judge, including a 3-year-old girl. Pedro will have to speak through an interpreter to the judge.
Though family separation was occurring as early as last year, the practice came into the public eye and became more widespread after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced earlier this year the “zero tolerance” immigration policy to prosecute more people crossing the border and separate families.
After facing massive backlash over the family separations from lawmakers and the public, President Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday to keep the policy in place but allow children to remain in custody with their parents.
Read it on The Hill here.