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Kids as young as 1 face judges in immigration court

Ruben Garcia, director of Annunciation House in El Paso, speaks to the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement as he sits with Josue, who migrated from Guatemala, and Miriam, who migrated from Honduras, as they try to track down their children. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

"The 1-year-old boy in a green button-up shirt drank milk from a bottle, played with a small purple ball that lit up when it hit the ground and occasionally asked for 'agua,'" AP's Astrid Galvan writes from Phoenix.

What's happening: "Then it was the child's turn for his court appearance before a Phoenix immigration judge, who ... asks immigrant defendants whether they understand the proceedings." Judge John W. Richardson told the lawyer representing the 1-year-old: "I'm embarrassed to ask it, because I don't know who you would explain it to, unless you think that a 1-year-old could learn immigration law."

"The boy is one of hundreds of children who need to be reunited with their parents after being separated at the border, many of them split from mothers and fathers as a result of the Trump administration's 'zero-tolerance policy.'"

  • "[T]he nation's immigration court system ... requires children — some still in diapers — to have appearances before judges and go through deportation proceedings while separated from their parents."
  • "Such children don't have a right to a court-appointed attorney, and 90 percent of kids without a lawyer are returned to their home countries, according to Kids in Need of Defense, a group that provides legal representation."

"In Phoenix on Friday, the Honduran boy named Johan waited over an hour to see the judge. His attorney told Richardson that the boy's father had brought him to the U.S. but that they had been separated, although it's unclear when. He said the father, who was now in Honduras, was removed from the country under false pretenses that he would be able to leave with his son."

  • "For a while, the child wore dress shoes, but later he was in just socks as he waited to see the judge. He was silent and calm for most of the hearing, though he cried hysterically afterward for the few seconds that a worker handed him to another person while she gathered his diaper bag. He is in the custody of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department."
  • "Johan was granted a voluntary departure order that would allow the government to fly him to Honduras so that he could be reunited with his family. An attorney with the Florence Project, an Arizona-based nonprofit that provides free legal help to immigrants, said both his mother and father were in Honduras."

The big picture: "The boy's case was heard on the same day that the Trump administration said it needed more time to reunite 101 children under 5 years old to ensure the children's safety and to confirm their parental relationships."