It’s true, Pérez Méndez doesn’t look 21. He has the soft facial features of a 14 year old child or younger, which make the interaction between him and U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Marshall in the Tucson federal courthouse even more painful to watch. Pérez Méndez’s crime occurred four days before when he crossed the U.S.-Mexico border without authorization. The U.S. Border Patrol apprehended him in the Arizona desert. And now he is in the courthouse—shackled on his wrist, chained around his waist, shackled on his ankles—along with 60 other people convicted for “illegal entry” into the United States.
The judge has singled Pérez Méndez out, and unlike the others who approached her in groups of five, this kid, obviously frightened, is the last one to shuffle up to the stand. He does it alone.
The judge explains to him that she has singled him out because “I don’t believe you are 21. We don’t lie in this court. That isn’t how we proceed.”
Pérez Méndez doesn’t say anything.
“Do you have any relatives? Parents? Brothers? Cousins travelling with you?”
“No,” he says. The judge looks at him suspiciously, trying to discover, I imagine, the motivation for his alleged lie.
The judge tells him that she has no other choice but to put him under oath. She explains to him what that means—if he were to lie, then it would be perjury. Perjury is a criminal offense carrying prison time. “Is that what you want?”