Boston Globe Deep-Dives Into Immigration Court Delays

Photo Credit: Boston Globe Report, Pat Greenhouse/Staff / File 2015

Photo Credit: Boston Globe Report, Pat Greenhouse/Staff / File 2015

Citing government studies, The Boston Glove is reporting that the immigration court “logjam” has more than doubled over the past decade, to include about a half-million cases including 11,271 cases in Boston,
“As a result, some respondents’ cases may take years to resolve,” government auditors said in the June 1 report on the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review, which oversees the immigration court system.
The Globe story focuses on a woman, her husband, and their two children who “… fled war-torn Syria in 2013, moving first to Lebanon before arriving legally in Massachusetts in March 2014. They applied for asylum, were granted temporary permission to stay, and were given work permits. So far, however, they have no idea how long they’ll be allowed to remain in the United States. Or even if they will.”
The reporting cites several causes for the backlog, including too few judges and the 2014 jump in people seeing refuge here. Immigration courts are considered “civil,” rather than criminal and thus do not have to provide lawyers and other protections. The courts are not part of the federal courts system but are a function of the Justice Department.
Read the Globe story here: At immigration courts, a growing backlog – The Boston Globe

Trump Policies Play Out In Courtrooms Like This One

The Courthouse News has an excellent report about a San Francisco courtroom it calls a “microcosm” of how the nation’s immigration deportation system is reacting to President Trump’s new policies. The CN explains that the courtroom is “… where immigrants held in detention centers miles away speak to judges through interpreters and flat-screen TVs.” The report details cases from “… about 1,500 immigrants detained in four facilities within 300 miles of San Francisco, where deportation cases are tried and decided by 19 immigration judges at two courthouses.”

The report also backgrounds the effect of having legal representation: “A recent study by the University of Pennsylvania Law Review found detained immigrants with an attorney were four times more likely to be released on bond, 11 times more likely to seek asylum or other relief from deportation, and twice as likely to successfully obtain the relief they sought. According to that same study, 37 percent of immigrants have no legal representation in removal cases, a proportion that shrinks to 14 percent for those held in detention.”

Officials are trying to provide legal representation for immigrants facing deportation, but given the years-long backlog and budgets, it seems an uphill struggle. Immigration courts are considered civil courts, so they do not carry the same “right to an attorney” that criminal courts have.

Read the story here: https://www.courthousenews.com/advocates-push-lawyers-immigrant-detainees/

San Francisco Newspaper Profiles Immigration Courts in Near-Chaos

Photo: Santiago Mejia, The Chronicle

Photo: Santiago Mejia, The Chronicle Second from right: Mike Lee, from South Korea, and others wait in line to go inside the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service building located at 630 Sansome Street on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017, in San Francisco, Calif. Lee, a molecular biology student at UC Berkeley, said he was going in for a naturalization interview.

It may be a “sanctuary city,” but the federal immigration courts in San Francisco are not immune from the backlog and lack of legal representation found in the rest of the country. The San Francisco Chronicle has a profile of the situation online, noting that “… since [President] Trump took office Jan. 20… U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which runs the detention facilities, has increasingly refused to release immigrants on bond after their arrest. Nieblas, the former lawyers’ association president, said the same agency is also refusing to settle once-routine cases and forcing immigrants to litigate them in court.”
The report notes that “… in most court cases, they’re on their own. Unlike criminal defendants, immigrants have no constitutional right to legal representation, and a recent study found that 37 percent were represented by lawyers, mostly from nonprofit organizations charging no fees. For immigrants in detention, only 14 percent had lawyers.
Some studies indicate that people are five times more likely to win the right to say in the U.S. if they have a lawyer. Unlike criminal defendants, who are legally entitled to representation, immigration cases are considered “civil” and no such right exists.
The Chron notes that the legal-representation issue “… is percolating in San Francisco, where Mayor Ed Lee has approved $1.5 million in city funding for immigration lawyers at nonprofit agencies but opposes Public Defender Jeff Adachi’s request for $7 million to hire 10 staff attorneys to represent detained migrants.”

Read the story here: Immigration courts clogged with 2-year backlog

Amid ICE Raids, Courts Are Even More Backed Up

Reporting on immigration raids and related issues often overlook the ongoing backlog at the nation’s immigration courts, where more than a half-million cases are already awaiting hearings and wait times can reach into years. But do not count the CBS Austin TV affiliate among those missing the story.

CBS Austin reports that U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, has introduced legislation to freeze funding to ICE and Border Protection until immigration court funding is increased. The “courts” are not actual federal courts. They are civil hearings conducted by the U.S. Justice Department; judges are employees of the Justice Department and have no authority to hold federal agents in contempt.

Read the story here:
As ICE enforcement grows, immigration courts can’t keep up

CM Publisher Makes Case For Bi-Partisian Fix on Immigration Court

Sara Cocoran Warner, Founding Publisher of the California Courts Monitor

Sara Cocoran Warner, Founding Publisher of the California Courts Monitor

Courts Monitor Publisher Sara Warner, in a Huffington Post blog, makes her case that fixing the swamped immigration courts should be a low-hanging issue for bi-partisian action. Although, perhaps the parties have differing motivations.

See her argument here:

Swamped Immigration Courts Are A Bi-Partisian Fix Opportunity

Former NY Prosecutor Outlines ‘The Real Crisis’ For Immigration

Quotas for depriving people of their liberty (KATE BRUMBACK/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Quotas for depriving people of their liberty (KATE BRUMBACK/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Over the last five years, the budget for immigration courts grew by 74% — but the budget for immigration enforcement agencies grew by over 400%. The result is gridlock that makes those old criminal court dockets look like models of efficiency.

Former Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, writing in the New York Daily News, outlines just how bad the U.S. immigration court crisis has become, blaming political pressures and adding that “… the result is a backlog that staggers the imagination. Today, when immigrants ask when they need to return to court, many are told in 2023.”

 Morgenthau outlines the oft-cited, but still hard to believe, stats: “According to the most recent data from a think tank at Syracuse University, there are currently pending before our immigration courts over half a million removal cases. That averages about 2,000 cases per judge.”

The writer offers some solutions and begins with judges: “What is to be done? Regardless of how one feels about immigration reform generally, everyone can agree that we need to restore sanity to immigration court. First, immigration judges should be real judges. Right now, they are employees of the Justice Department, and not genuinely independent.”

He also makes a call for a sort of Civil Gideon, the idea that some civil cases (as opposed to criminal cases) should require representation (immigration cases are considered civil actions): “Congress must also ensure that immigrants get proper legal representation when their basic rights are at stake… a study published this month disclosed that in 70% of cases involving adults with children, there was no legal representation for the family.”

And, obviously, increase capacity. It’s a well-considered piece from somebody who knows of what they speak. Read it, and find the writer’s other missives on immigration and other issues, here:

 Robert Morgenthau: America’s real immigration crisis