A Day in Immigration Court with a 14-Year Old Defendant Facing Deportation

This is a photo of ACJP De-Bug’s youngest member — only 14 years old, who had an immigration court proceeding today in San Francisco.  He’s been coming to our weekly meetings for months now with his family and we’ve grown to know and love his quiet strength.

Scanning the courtroom, he was also the youngest person there who was facing deportation.  The air was thick with apprehension, of not knowing what was going to happen, and greater than that — of the fear of ICE agents coming into court right then and there.  In the waiting room that looks like a doctor’s office, the brown faces from Mexico, Central America, and Asia are furrowed.  But this young man has incredible courage, far more than what he realizes himself.  He stares down at his paperwork the whole time.  The pro-bono attorney of the day rapidly runs through paperwork to give him and says will ask for a continuance.  She battle-runs through the same set of questions we had seen her ask the Chinese person before us, and the Latino couple right before him.  “Where are you from?”  “Where is your family?”  — All questions that are loaded and sterile at the same time, given the place we were at this morning.

They call his name from the bench and the pro-bono attorney motions with two fingers to come to the front.  “You’re not alone up there,” I told him.  “I know,” he says. “God is with me.”  And he smiles.  It’s only 5 minutes that he’s up there, but the wait was about an hour and a half.  From the audience, I tell myself it’s all procedural today, but every pause of the judge pushes me closer to the edge of my seat.  At the end, another court date is set, and he breathes a sigh of relief outside. He looks up again and can’t wait to run to his mom.

Young people should be thinking about school, sports, what music they like — not deportation proceedings. I am hoping the human side of the immigration system breaks through for this young man, and for all young people and their families.  — Submission Post by Charisse Domingo

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