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A senior DOJ immigration official thinks that 3- and 4-year-olds can represent themselves in court.

John Moore/Getty Images

According to the Washington Post, Jack H. Weil, who, as the assistant chief immigration judge, is responsible for the training of other Justice Department immigration judges, stated in a deposition:

I’ve taught immigration law literally to 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds. It takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of patience. They get it. It’s not the most efficient, but it can be done. … You can do a fair hearing.

While Weil and a Justice Department spokesperson responded by saying that the statements were taken out of context, it’s pretty hard to imagine a context in which this would be okay. The deposition was part of a case in which ACLU and immigrant rights groups are pushing to require the government to provide legal representation for children in deportation hearings. The current situation forces many kids—who are often alone, scared, and facing language barriers—to represent themselves in immigration court if they can’t afford a lawyer. 

The Post reports that the case currently has 14 juvenile plaintiffs—three of which are under five years old.