Justice Department memo changes guidelines regarding child immigrant cases


The  Justice Department has issued a memo this week which contains guidelines for immigration judges to use when questioning unaccompanied children who have entered the U.S. illegally. The memo directs judges to try the cases fairly, and to set aside “sympathetic allegations.”

The memo, obtained by Reuters, was issued on Dec. 20 by the Executive Office for Immigration Review. It changes a previous mandate to use  “child-sensitive questioning,” and warns judges to be aware of the possibility that some minors may be abusing the immigration system.

The memo says that unaccompanied minors “generally receives more favorable treatment under the law than other categories of illegal aliens,” which may create “an incentive to misrepresent accompaniment status or age in order to attempt to qualify for the benefits.”

According to The Hill:

Other changes to department policy include changes to rules meant to make unaccompanied minors comfortable before court proceedings.

Language that previously allowed children to explore a courtroom before trial proceedings, including the judge’s bench, has been changed to allow this only “to the extent that resources and time permit.” The judge’s bench is now strictly off limits.


President Donald J.Trump and his administration have said they want to prevent vulnerable juveniles from attempting the dangerous trip across the border, as illegal entry to the United States can sometimes be life threatening. The administration also seeks to eliminate fraud from programs for young immigrants.


Former immigration judge Andrew Arthur, who works at the Center for Immigration Studies, said the new guidelines were necessary, as the previous instructions put “so much emphasis” on making sure that the illegal immigrant understood the proceedings, “that it almost put the judge into the position of being an advocate.”

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