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The Trump administration recently promoted an immigration judge to the federal board that reviews immigration decisions — even though he once reportedly threatened to unleash a “very big dog” on a 2-year-old Guatemalan boy.
“I have a very big dog in my office, and if you don’t be quiet, he will come out and bite you!” North Carolina immigration judge V. Stuart Couch yelled at the migrant child during a March 2016 hearing, according to a new report by Mother Jones. Couch thought the boy was making too much noise and being disruptive, Kathryn Coiner-Collier, an independent observer who was in court that day, told Mother Jones.
“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?” Couch reportedly yelled as a Spanish-language interpreter translated. Couch became increasingly frustrated throughout the hearing, according to Coiner-Collier. But it’s possible the boy didn’t fully understand his instructions since he primarily spoke the Mayan language K’iche’.
Couch repeatedly turned off the courtroom’s recorder throughout the course of the hearing when he threatened the boy, according to Coiner-Collier. Assistant Chief Immigration Judge Deepali Nadkarni also confirmed there were multiple breaks in the recording that day.
Instead of facing long-term repercussions, Couch was recently given a big promotion. In August, the Trump administration promoted him and five other judges to the Board of Immigration Appeals, which oversees immigration decisions — including that of the boy and his mother, who have an asylum appeal pending before the board.
Any punishment would have come as the result of a complaint filed with the Department of Justice by the executive director of Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy in April 2016. Coiner-Collier, who worked as a coordinator for a project run by the Charlotte organization, had written everything down from that day in court in an affidavit.
But it’s unclear whether Couch was disciplined. The DOJ’s assistant chief immigration judge for conduct and professionalism told Coiner-Collier’s boss that the department would take appropriate action. And after the hearing, Couch reportedly told Coiner-Collier that he would reassign the cases he heard that day to another judge.
The mother and child he yelled at during the March 2016 hearing were scheduled to appear before him in court a year later, but they were later reassigned to another judge, who denied their asylum claim.
Cover image: A courtroom is seen on Thursday, July 31, 2014. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)