Trump administration promotes judge who once threatened to turn an attack dog loose on a 2-year-old Guatemalan boy

Trump administration promotes judge who once threatened to turn an attack dog loose on a 2-year-old Guatemalan boy
"Immigration Reform Rally" by JBrazito is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

The Trump administration has promoted Judge V. Stuart Couch to the U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals — a judge who, according to a report by Mother Jones’ Noah Lenard, once threatened to turn an attack dog loose on a two-year-old Guatemalan boy.

That incident, Lenard reports, occurred on March 30, 2016 in a courtroom in Charlotte, North Carolina, where Couch became annoyed because the boy was making noise. When the child wouldn’t calm down, Couch lost his temper and yelled, “I have a very big dog in my office, and if you don’t be quiet, he will come out and bite you.”

When the boy made noise, according to Lenard, Couch would reiterate his threat. The immigration judge also said, “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?”

Kathryn Coiner-Collier, who was n coordinator for the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy at the time and helped immigrants who couldn’t afford attorneys, was in the courtroom that day. After taking notes, Coiner-Collier wrote an affidavit — and Kenneth Schorr, the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s executive director, submitted a complaint to the U.S. Department of Justice Department (DOJ) in April 2016.

Lenard quotes Schorr as saying, “I was outraged. I’ve been practicing law for over 40 years, and I have never experienced judicial conduct this bad.”

Nonetheless, Couch received a promotion in late August, when he was among the six judges the Trump Administration chose for the DOJ’s U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals, which often determines whether or not an immigrant will face deportation.

It isn’t hard to understand why the Trump Administration picked Couch: he has a reputation for being an immigration hardliner. Couch, according to Lenard, granted only  7.9 percent of asylum claims between 2013 and 2018 compared to a national average of roughly 45%.

Couch, however, hasn’t always been viewed unfavorably on the left. Before he became an immigration judge, Couch was a military prosecutor and a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Marines. And he refused to prosecute Mohamedou Ould Slahi, a prisoner at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba during George W. Bush’s presidency, because he believed Slahi had been illegally tortured. And in February 2013, Couch discussed that case during an interview with Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman.

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