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If you have received a letter in the mail asking you to appear at immigration court, do not take the notice lightly. After all, you’re now facing deportation.

In this section, you will find updated news, stories, and reports about immigration court.

Hopefully, by reading this selection of immigration defense cases, immigration appeals, and immigration court decisions, you will be better prepared for the win-or-go-home battle about to unfold.

Congress Approves Additional Funding For Immigration Court

For many years, as this video demonstrates, the immigration court has suffered from an overflow of cases. The problem is the result of both external and internal causes.

Externally, the court problems stem from a combination of excessive deportations, detention quotas, and a broken family unity visa system.

Internally, flawed immigration defense regulations, antiquated judicial equipment, and personnel shortages each play a role in creating the case backlog at the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR).

Worse, Congress turned a deaf ear to these concerns during the past two decades, treating the immigration court system as the forgotten step-child of reform discussions.

As a result, the situation worsened. Even last summer, when over 60,000 immigrant youth arrived at America’s borders, Congress did not move forward with any planning to alleviate the blossoming crisis.

Some hope appears to on the way.

Immigration Court Director Calls for Overhaul of Broken System
Stephen Stock and David Paredes, NBC Bay Area, May 27, 2015

“There’s no question that the system, the immigration court system, is under incredible stress right now,” EOIR Director Juan Osuna told the NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit.

According to EOIR’s latest figures, US Immigration Courts received 306,045 cases in 2014 alone. Many of those cases were never heard, adding to a backlog which now totals 445,607 according to a immigration court backlog report by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, or TRAC.

“The simple math tells you that that’s more than 1,500 pending cases per judge,” said Judge Dana Marks, the President of the National Association of Immigration Judges.

She explained that in San Francisco, where she sits on the bench, “the raw average, which you can find through public statistics, is more than 2,000 cases per judge. And I know for a fact my own case load is more than 3,000 pending cases.”

Both Marks and Osuna agree that a lot is on the line for these cases. The stakes of many cases “are life and death.”

Studies have shown that, at the rate cases today are moving forward, many of these immigrant refugee children will have to spend a third of their lives in immigration limbo before their next hearing.

As an immigration defense trial attorney, I know firsthand many non-refugee cases have been rescheduled for hearing in 2017 and beyond.

Recently, Osuna asked Congress for an additional $134 million dollars in order to hire another 55 judges and their support staff. In response, the House recommended the largest increase in immigration judges in history—$74 million. Although short, it was a start in the right direction.

Congress could better, without spending more money by simply revamping deportation and detentions policies. I’m not holding my breath.

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The Push For An Independent Immigration Court System Continues

Immigration Judges’ Union Wants Courts Independent Of Justice Department
CBS Local, August 27, 2014

To the public, the concept of an independent judiciary seems commonplace.

Immigration insiders, however, are accustomed to a quite different scenario.

Immigration courts are not independent.

This has led, not merely in appearance, to a widespread belief among immigrants, immigrant rights advocates, and immigration lawyers that the deportation system is rigged.

Not exactly an ideal situation in such a hotly contested area of law.

For more, continue here: The Push For An Independent Immigration Court System Continues

 

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Immigration Courts: In Need Of Modern Equipment

Anyone who has been in immigration court knows the truth of this story. Calling the video conferencing system “not very good” is putting it mildly.

But since Congress holds the keys for upgrading, I don’t expect any quick fixes.

The Technology The Government Uses For Immigration Hearings Doesn’t Work Right
John Stanton, BuzzFeed, August 11, 2014

Shortly after 10 a.m., immigration Judge Roxanne Hladylowycz brought her court to order for a long day of removal hearings and asylum pleas.

The plaintiff, one of the hundreds of mothers with children being housed in an Artesia, New Mexico, facility, was ready. The attorney for the Department of Homeland Security was ready, as was the translator.

One critical thing was not ready, however: the teleconferencing system used by the Justice Department to connect Hladylowycz’s Virginia courtroom with the New Mexico detention facility.

In my experiences at immigration family unity defense proceedings, I have rarely had a video hearing without some technical problems. Even when the video is working, the sound is using fuzzy. Usually, both are shabby.

And when there’s a translator involved, and the translator is sitting in the other courtroom, interpreting across the video transmission, it is difficult to discern the words spoken by the client and the translator when simultaneous translation is used.

If the translation takes place in a non-simultaneous manner, I’ve watched judges become impatient with the slowness of the testimony and truncate the hearing.

Imagine a pro per client without an attorney in such a proceeding. Or a child refugee from Honduras, Guatemala, or El Salvador. Who is going to raise, forcibly, the due process considerations?

All-in-all, the video system needs to be dumped.

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Due Process Or Judicial Expediency: An Immigration Court Question

This judge is right. Fast tracking is not the right approach. Sometimes we lose far more in the long run than we save or gain in the short term by ill-conceived notions of law and justice.

A Top Immigration Judge Calls For Shift On ‘Fast-Tracking’
Richard Gonzales, National Public Radio, August 8, 2014

As the Obama administration says the number of unaccompanied minors crossing the Southwest border is declining, the White House is being urged to stop fast-tracking their deportation hearings. That call is coming from an unusual source: one of the nation’s top immigration judges.

Judge Dana Leigh Marks, President of the National Association of Immigration Judges, believes fast-tracking increases the likelihood of further clogging the court system, as the practice could lead to appeals based on noncitizens’ lack of understanding of the U.S. process.

Without legal representation, rushing the Central American youth refugees through the deportation process creates a high risk that their due process will be trampled upon and denied. In turn, this could lead to more immigration appeals than would otherwise occur – leading to a flood of cases moving up to the Board of Immigration Appeals.

If not handled properly at that level, the Federal Courts of Appeals would become the tribunal of last resort for many immigrants.

The impact would be grave.

This shifting of judicial responsibility happened before, not too long ago. During the Bush administration, following 9/11, a streamlining process was set up, allowing the BIA to issue quick one-sentence cursory opinions. The end result was a flooded federal court appellate system.

Some immigration reform opponents have decried the current situation from a position that too much due process has already been granted to the children refugees. Their argument is that the court system cannot tolerate such liberties being granted or risk crashing.

They perceive the potential dangers ahead correctly. Their analysis, however, is defective and their proposed solution is misguided.

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A Missing Component Of Immigration Reform

This article discusses yet another aspect of immigration court hearings which is not part of Congressional reform discussions: procedures for ensuring fairness in cases involving immigrants with mental disorders.

As the author notes, many of these immigrants “have a difficult time understanding what is happening during the removal process, which can be complex even for native English speakers.”

In most immigration court matters, the judicial quest to move matters quickly clashes directly with the immigrant’s right to competent representation. In those cases involving an person with a mental disability, the contraction between administrative policy and due process is magnified.

New Immigration Law Doesn’t Take Into Account This One Demographic
PolicyMic, Yu Sun Chin, August 19, 2013

In May 2011, the Board of Immigration Appeals set a procedural framework for immigration judges to follow when addressing cases with immigrants with mental illnesses. Under the decision, judges must designate “appropriate safeguards” for the immigrant deemed incompetent.

But this guideline is also flawed, advocates said. Judges are not explicitly required to designate attorneys as safeguards, and can appoint family members or friends to come to court and represent the immigrants, which may weaken their case, according to Hena Mansori, detention project supervising attorney at the National Immigrant Justice Center, a legal advocacy group for immigrant rights.

In such cases, family members often clash with appointed attorneys. This happens for various reasons, including emotional frustration, lack of sophistication, or distrust of attorneys.

These family issues are compounded by the lack of a standardized screening mechanism for incompetency. Many experts have noted current testing procedures do not adequately assess the degree to which immigrants understand the nature of their court proceedings.

So why hasn’t Congress addressed this issue?

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Fact Or Fiction: Will Reform Allow Deportees To Return?

I have a bone to pick with stories like this one.

The headline is likely to mislead many immigrants. Although it is technically correct, one has to read closely to figure out the reality.

And the reality is that many – indeed, perhaps most – immigrants, previously deported who seek to be allowed re-entry under the Senate’s proposed immigration plan will not be successful.

Why?

That’s the fine print, not covered in this post.

What Immigration Reform Could Do for Deported Immigrants
ABC News, Ted Hesson, July 2, 2013

The Senate bill would allow previously deported spouses, children and parents of permanent residents and citizens to apply for a provisional immigration status.

The bill that passed in the Senate doesn’t offer a way for undocumented immigrants to bring family members who have been removed back to the U.S. The only people who might have the option to return would be qualifying DREAMers or the spouses, children or parents of permanent residents or citizens.

It’s also worth mentioning that it’s not likely everyone would be approved: each application would be decided on a case-by-case basis, at the discretion of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

I’m an immigration lawyer who specializes in deportation defense. I’m not inclined to jump on the bandwagon for shiny new promises of government leniency.

Over the past two decades, I have seen few real indications that immigration authorities are willing to interpret removal laws in an immigrant-friendly law.

Thus, until the regulatory meat is applied to the Senate’s promissory bones, I will remain cautious about the possibility of deported immigrants being allowed to return to the U.S., as part of the current reform package.

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