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John Oliver Roasts Justice System for Demanding Immigrant Kids Act as Lawyers

To drive his point home, Oliver held a child-filled mock trial that quickly devolved into chaos.


On Sunday’s episode of Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver tore into the United States justice system for making children represent themselves in immigration court, which is a real thing and not just one he made up for laughs. 

The segment noted how cases in immigration court exist outside of the normal justice system, as immigration cases are not considered criminal cases. Because of this, immigration cases aren’t handled in criminal court, and the US government isn’t legally obligated to provide the defendant with a lawyer. As it stands right now, only 37% of immigrants who end up having to go to immigration court can afford legal counsel to begin with. The result? Kids have to defend themselves before they are even in first grade.

Oliver seemed taken aback at the manner in which Jack H. Weil, a chief immigration judge, seemed to think that, because he’d “taught immigration law” to three and four-year-olds, children should somehow be able to represent themselves in immigration court.

In response, Oliver played a video of one immigration lawyer carrying out a mock deposition on her own young child. When she asked her daughter “do you speak English as your native language?” the child simply responded with “Yea, I like my balloon.” When the same lawyer asked another child what she’d like her country of removal to be, she only answered with the word “pizza.”

To further drive the point home, Oliver ended the segment with a mock trial in which all the participants were children, with the exception of the defendant, played by H. Jon Benjamin. Before Benjamin even had a chance to defend himself, the children were already pointing fingers at him, yelling “you’re bad” and repeating the word “guilty.” The mock-scenario – created as part of a courtroom show named Tot Court – illustrated how no 4-year-old child has sufficient understanding of courtroom behavior – or the law itself, for that matter – to enter court without legal counsel. Clearly, the US government disagrees.