In an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert Thursday night, leftist filmmaker Michael Moore falsely claimed that minors apprehended crossing the border illegally are required to attend their immigration hearings without even a lawyer present.
“The headline, I don’t know if you saw it. They have ruled now that toddlers must appear in these immigration courts alone. They cannot have an advocate or a lawyer or anyone with them. They could bring in the three- and four- and five-year-olds and they have to stand alone in the docket,” Moore said to deafening jeers from the audience. “This is insanity. This is not who we are, is it?”
Moore was presumably referring to a Texas Tribune story from this week, which reported that toddlers separated from their families by the Trump administration’s controversial “zero-tolerance” immigration-enforcement policy have been ordered to face deportation proceedings without their parents. A number of lawyers who describe their experiences representing toddlers in immigration court in the article, which at no point indicates that migrant children are not allowed legal representation or the company of an adult during their hearing.
Despite Moore’s claims to the contrary, migrant children are not required to attend immigration hearings alone, and the overwhelming majority of them don’t. While illegal immigrants are not entitled to a public defender during their immigration proceedings, the Department of Justice provides recommendations for pro bono legal services, and, failing that, tries to match children with so-called “friends of the court” to accompany them throughout their proceedings.
As of March 31 of this year, nearly 80 percent of all unaccompanied minors with cases open for a year or more had retained legal representation, according to the Department of Justice. Minors with parents who are also in immigration proceedings attend their hearings with those parents.
When contacted for comment, a Department of Justice official told National Review that Moore’s comments amounted to a “deliberate misrepresentation” and were clearly intended to further impugn the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy.