Trial by Video Proves an Injustice for Children

March 10, 2020

Washington, DC – As the Houston immigration court prepares for a second day of videoconferencing deportation proceedings featuring the cases of children, including some without legal counsel, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) said today that it’s clear the hearings fail to provide due process and deny children a real chance of pleading their case. The first day of proceedings was plagued by technical difficulties that made the hearings difficult for the children to understand and to fully participate in.

Yesterday in Houston, children appeared either via video from the facility where are they detained or in person at the Houston immigration court. The judge appeared by video from the Atlanta immigration court. Technical issues arose immediately upon the start of the docket as proceedings were continually stopped to fix audio issues that delayed the process significantly.

According to KIND staff in the room, some children seemed unable to comprehend what was happening or who the judge actually was, appearing in some cases to view their interpreter – who was present in the room – as the judge. The video screen with the judge’s image was not near the judge’s desk, but in the middle left of the courtroom. Some children, including those as young as five, did not even look at the judge because it was not clear where the children should direct their attention.

At one point, a case from another courtroom could be heard on the audio feed, in which an adult was describing threats to their life in their home country, a clear violation of his confidentiality

In Atlanta, the faces of the children appearing before the judge in the video were very small and hard to see. It was difficult to see children’s expressions or any movements they made, an important part of any hearing as judges determine an individual’s credibility.

“The first day of video proceedings in Houston immigration court prove that this practice must be halted immediately,” said KIND President Wendy Young. “There is no question that the children were confused by the video and had difficulty engaging in the process. It’s hard to even imagine how a child could present the substance of their case, which often includes traumatic experiences that are very hard to share even in person, to a judge tuning in via TV. This is drive-by due process that would be almost laughable if the consequences were not so dire for these children.”

For more information, please visit or contact Megan McKenna at

Click here to listen to KIND’s recent telebriefing news conference about these cases and this policy change.