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Immigration Courts Are Working Exactly As They Were Designed To: Poorly

By Emily Chambers | Last Week Tonight | April 2, 2018 |

By Emily Chambers | Last Week Tonight | April 2, 2018 |


I’ve been watching Last Week Tonight for a good long time i.e. all of it. And what they’ve usually been great at doing is taking complex, usually fairly boring topics, and breaking them down item by item. By doing it this way, even when the topic is fairly depressing, or seemingly overwhelming and totally unsolvable, the show tends to give people small, digestible bits of useful information and clear directives for fixing it.

Which is why, in the face of tonight’s advice being, “Stop letting three-year-old children represent themselves in immigration court,” I have to assume that this clusterfuck is by design.

Because having been around my fair share of children, I can tell you unequivocally, you don’t ever let them do anything by themselves unless you actively want it fucked up. Like maybe you don’t want your kitchen destroyed, but you really don’t want to have to entertain them for the next thirty minutes so you let them make “cake” aka flour on literally everything. Similarly, you don’t want them to break your TV, but building a fort in the living room is easier than explaining why birds fly so that TV has to take one for the team.

So when someone thinks that a three or four-year-old child should be responsible, in any way, shape or form, for their own immigration status and future, that person wants that kid’s life fucked up. It’s the only reasonable explanation left. It’s also completely fitting with basically everything we do with the immigration courts. And “courts” is kind of a stretch given that they don’t even fall under the judicial branch. And even if you think both the show and I are exaggerating the current conditions of immigration court (three-year-olds have advocates instead of lawyers, or the judges are still trial judges and are equally qualified (please note, I don’t know if those things are true. I’m making up possible misconstrued facts, but have no reason to believe immigration courts are anything other than the nonsense rooms they seem to be)), the question of why these courts should be different remains.

Why would we have a court system that differs in significant ways from every other court system in the country? Because these courts aren’t dealing with “citizens” so they don’t need to be treated the same way. Our beliefs about fair trials, competent representation, and speedy justice only apply to U.S. citizens, and even then, only sometimes. Because we don’t believe it is universally true that all people have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We believe all U.S. citizens should have that. And if you’re not a U.S. citizen, you probably should have tried moving to another town before fleeing to America to escape your murderous, gangster stalker.

Also before anyone starts arguing that we’re not obligated to extend the same rights to non-citizens as we do citizens, yes, you’re correct. But then we can’t claim that every person seeking asylum receives a fair trial. They didn’t. They received a trial that started with the presumption that they are not deserving of the same rights and entitlements as citizens. They are assumed to be less than from the outset. And understanding that fact, it makes perfect sense why they are run the way they are.

Emily Chambers is a Staff Contributor for Pajiba. You can follow her retweeting other people on Twitter.

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