An immigration judge reportedly threatened a two-year-old Guatemalan boy who was making some noise that a “very big dog” would “come out and bite you” if the undocumented immigrant did not quiet down, Mother Jones reported on Tuesday, citing testimony from an independent observer present at the court.
The boy was reportedly in the courtroom with his mother for an immigration hearing in March 2016 when the judge made the threat.
“I have a very big dog in my office, and if you don’t be quiet, he will come out and bite you,” Judge V. Stuart Couch reportedly told the child, according to an affidavit signed by Kathryn Coiner-Collier, who worked as a coordinator for a Charlotte, N.C.-area legal advocacy group that assisted migrants who could not afford attorneys.
“Want me to go get the dog? If you don’t stop talking, I will bring the dog out. Do you want him to bite you?” the judge continued to threaten the boy during the hearing, according to the news outlet.
Couch later asked Coiner-Collier to carry the boy out of the courtroom and sit with him.
The judge reportedly told Coiner-Collier that he had previously used the same scare tactic on other children but that it appeared not to be working with this particular child.
Coiner-Collier said she immediately wrote the affidavit after the case. In a message to the mother’s attorney in 2017, she wrote “I have never lost my composure like I did that day. … I was … red in the face sobbing along with [the boy’s mother.]”
Coiner-Collier also accused Couch of turning off the courtroom’s recording device as he threatened the child.
“The child and her mother appeared again in front of Couch in August 2017, but the case was eventually reassigned. The new judge denied their asylum claim, according to Mother Jones. They are appealing the case,” The Hill reports.
Mother Jones reports:
In August, the Trump administration promoted Couch and five other judges to the Justice Department’s Board of Immigration Appeals, which often has the final say over whether immigrants are deported. All six judges reject asylum requests at a far higher rate than the national average; Couch granted just 7.9 percent of asylum claims between 2013 and 2018, compared to the national average of about 45 percent. (Before becoming an immigration judge, Couch served as a military prosecutor and attracted widespread attention for refusing to prosecute a Guantanamo detainee because he had been tortured.)