Six-Year-Old Defendant Represents Himself In Immigration Asylum Hearing
The young boy has been separated from his family since June 6.
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When the bailiff prompted the young man for his name, he responded, "Wilder Hilario Maldonado Cabrera."
Another immigration lawyer, Thelma R. Garcia, was present defending other clients, and, thankfully, she volunteered to represent Cabrera. Both fluent in Spanish, she turned to the young man and asked for his age.
Originally from El Salvador, Cabrera ultimately became the youngest defendant on the juvenile agenda that day. Furthermore, the child was one of the few remaining adolescents left in government custody who had been affected by President Trump's harsh zero-tolerance policy. Many of these children who have been taken away from parental care are still awaiting their fate and whether they will see their parents again, per ProPublica.
Catholic Charities, a New York-based non-profit that provides legal counseling to immigrant children in government care, found at least 16 new separation cases, according to the Texas Tribune. Lawyers for the organization say it was on accident that they came across their situations, and it wasn't until they inquired more that they found children were placed into temporary shelters with little or no announcement that they arrived at the border with their parents.
More than 2,600 immigrant children were separated from their parents before a federal judge demanded that Trump abolish this rule and reunite the affected children with their families. More than 100 of those children were under 5 years old.
Cabrera's parents have been separated by country, making this situation even more complicated. His father is in federal custody at a detention center less than hour's drive from the San Antonio court. After he and his father were both apprehended by government officials on June 6, Cabrera was placed into temporary care. The only contact he has had with his father has been via telephone.
While speaking with the judge handling Cabrera's case, she mentioned that immigration officials said the reason why Cabrera and his father hadn’t been reunited was that his dad had a 10-year-old warrant for a DUI charge in Florida, writes The Tribune.
Cabrera's mother, meanwhile, has been in their home country of El Salvador, making ends meet with the young boy's three siblings.
As for Cabrera's fate, Garcia asked Judge Animal Martinez to hold any decisions about his asylum claim until Cabrera's lawyer could arrange to be in court with him. Judge Martinez obliged.
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