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Attorneys: Children as young as 3 are appearing at deportation hearings without parents

Attorneys in California, Texas, and Washington, D.C., say that immigrant children, some as young as three, are being ordered to attend court hearings without their parents for their own deportation proceedings, The Texas Tribune reports.

While this is not a brand new practice for unaccompanied minors, under the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" approach to immigration, families entering the U.S. are separated at the border, leaving more kids without their parents when deportation proceedings start. There are more than 2,000 undocumented children who were recently separated from their parents living at different facilities and foster homes across the United States. George Tzamaras, spokesman for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said it's impossible to know how many kids have attended deportation hearings by themselves. "There have been reports of kids younger than three years old and others as old as 17," he said.

Lindsay Toczylowski, executive director of Immigrant Defenders Law Center in Los Angeles, told the Tribune that her organization was "representing a 3-year-old in court recently who had been separated from the parents. And the child — in the middle of the hearing — started climbing up on the table. It really highlighted the absurdity of what we're doing with these kids."

Attorneys say that when children receive notices to appear in court, they are also given a list of legal services organizations that could possibly help them. "The parent might be the only one who knows why they fled from the home country, and the child is in a disadvantageous position to defend themselves," Toczylowski said. Read more about the deportation process for children, as well as the harm psychologists say this is likely causing kids, at The Texas Tribune.