"People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, 'Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.' And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them." (Mark 10:13-16)
Throughout my childhood (even to this day), Mark 10 was special to me. I thought about how cool it would be to be defended by this Jesus guy after not being allowed to be anywhere near the 'grown-up table,' (I'm an only child, so the kid's table was lonely for me at Thanksgivings). Seriously, Jesus spoke to and of children often, kindly and with admiration; this is not something that can or should be overlooked.
Last week I met up with AMMPARO's (Accompanying Migrant Minors with Protection, Advocacy, Representation and Opportunities) Guardian Angels in immigration court, where primary hearings for unaccompanied minors and other youth were being held.
The afternoon began with a comprehensive debriefing by a RMIAN (Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network) lawyer to migrant youth and families about the rights they have in court. She spoke to the families, whose preferred languages were all Spanish, about what to expect in the courtroom, how to put headphones on to hear the judge's translation, what documents they must have ready, how to ask for more time to find a lawyer, etc. When in court, the RMIAN representatives could not act as lawyers, but as friends of the court to assist the defendants if they didn't understand what was going on and then to help them find pro bono lawyers after their hearings.
To put the demographic of the courtroom in perspective: I was told beforehand that the Guardian Angels had only seen minors around the ages of 15 to 17 in court. Last Thursday, there was a two-year-old who ran around the courtroom while his dad answered questions. Two 10-year-olds spoke in front of a judge with their grandmother. Judge Corrin asked a six-year-old for their name and if they had any questions about the process. Do these children understand what was being decided? I'd venture to say they did not.
To Judge Corrin's credit, she seemed to act fairly, calmly and kindly toward the minors and their families. Most were given extended deadlines to find lawyers, and left the courtroom to get assistance from RMIAN.
The whole experience was not so overwhelming like I thought it would be going into it, but I will say that it opened my eyes to the United States immigration system. I kept thinking, "Where is God in this courtroom? Where is Jesus? How can we share the good news that all, including children, are welcome? Why must two-year-olds face deportation separately from their parents? Why does the grace of the Department of Justice depend entirely on the mood of each individual judge?" When I figure it out, I'll let you know.
- Intern Katie