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

Law Prof Offers Insight Into Trump Budget, Immigration Courts

A man has his fingerprints scanned by a U.S. Border Patrol agent while others wait their turn. Photo Credit: Reuters/Jeff Topping

A man has his fingerprints scanned by a U.S. Border Patrol agent while others wait their turn.
Photo Credit: Reuters/Jeff Topping

Lindsay M. Harris, an assistant professor of law at the University of the District of Columbia, has posted a deep-dive analysis into how President Trump’s budgeting might impact immigration courts, but also offering some historic insight along the way. In a post at The Conversation website (link below) that was picked up by the UPI, she notes that “… [Trump’s] budget requests would add to the more than $40 billion that the Department of Homeland Security will receive this year. It would include $4.1 billion to start building a border wall and $2.65 billion to increase the number of immigration detention beds. In comparison, the fiscal 2018 budget requests $80 million to add 75 new immigration judges.”

Harris also backgrounds that “… since 2002, funding for immigration enforcement has more than quadrupled, from US $4.5 billion to $20.1 billion in 2016. During the same time period, resources for immigration courts have increased by much less – 74 percent.”

Read the excellent analysis here:
Is the US immigration court system broken?

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

CBS News Asking How Trump Policy Works With Court Backlog

SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY, CBS NEWS

SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY, CBS NEWS

“What happens when a federal push to ramp up arrests and deportations hits a severely backlogged federal court system?” It’s a good question being asked by CBS News as it notes that “… President Donald Trump is taking what he portrays as a hard-nosed approach to undocumented immigrants, issuing an order this week to boost the number of U.S. border patrol agents and to build detention centers.”

Omar Jadwat, an attorney and director of the Immigrant Rights Project at the ACLU, offers an answer: “It’s a recipe for a due process disaster.” CBS backgrounds: “Just how backlogged is the system for adjudicating deportations and related legal matters? America’s immigration courts are now handling a record-breaking level of cases, with more than 533,000 cases currently pending, according to Syracuse University’s TRAC, a data gathering site that tracks the federal government’s enforcement activities. That figure is more than double the number when Mr. Obama took office in 2009.”

Read the excellent reporting here:

Overloaded U.S. immigration courts a “recipe for disaster”

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

Report Outlines Why NY Has Huge Immigration Court Backlog

Photo credit: WNYC Audio Report, 1/17/17

Photo credit: WNYC Audio Report, 1/17/17

New York’s WNYC radio has an excellent report on why the Big Apple’s immigration courts are backed up, noting that more than a half-million cases are pending nationwide and tens of thousands of those are in NYC. The reporter visits one of the city’s 28 immigration courts, which are actually not federal courts but administrative functions of the Justice Department. The story follows one immigrant and notes ” the whole process took about five minutes for each case, and Khan was scheduling future court appearances as late as August of 2018. This isn’t so bad given, that Schmidt said he was scheduling hearings for 2021 before retiring last summer.”

The reporting is in the context of Donald Trump presidency and any attempt to increase the pace of court-ordered deportations. The take-away is that there’s no real capacity to increase or even keep pace

See the story here: Why New York’s Immigration Courts Are Overwhelmed

SoCal Public Radio Report Outlines Immigration Court Issues

Ana Hernández (L )with her 15-year-old daughter Mariela Michell Beltrán-Hernandez outside the immigration court in Los Angeles. Dan Tuffs for KPCC.

Ana Hernández (L )with her 15-year-old daughter Mariela Michell Beltrán-Hernandez outside the immigration court in Los Angeles. Dan Tuffs for KPCC.

A new Southern California Public Radio report documents an “uptick” in those families seeking refuge in the United States from Central American nations, and the ongoing Immigration Courts crisis that goes along with it. The SCPR report begins with an example: “Michell Hernández’s case entered the immigration court in August as the system faced an unprecedented backlog, surpassing half a million ongoing cases nationwide. According to government data from Syracuse University’s TRAC, immigration courts fielded 516,031 cases, as of September 2016. Those numbers include both adult and juvenile cases.
 
One in five of those cases are in California – the biggest share of any state. And half of those, or nearly 50,000, are in Los Angeles.”
 
The report has other stats: “There are 250 judges in 58 courts across the nation, according to the Executive Office of Immigration Review, the agency that oversees the courts. Thirty judges currently serve in L.A. In response to the rising caseload, the agency has added more judges and staff, including swearing in an additional judge in Los Angeles this month. That followed three new judges  joining the L.A. courts in June. Still, judges typically handle dozens of cases a day.”
 
The uptick comes as the report backgrounds: “In 2015, the number of child migrants dropped across the Southwest border, but recent figures from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection show that those numbers have ticked back up. Through October 2016, for example, nearly 60,000 children have crossed the border alone in the past 12 months and over 77,000 families have been apprehended.”
 
Read the excellent reporting here:

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

Study: Miami Immigration Court Is Most Lenient In Nation

The clearinghouse that tracks immigration court backlog says that some places are better than others for immigrations hoping remain in the United States. The Miami Herald reports that’s “… because judges at the Miami immigration court are deemed among the most lenient toward immigrants in the country… the report from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University says that the Miami immigration court is in the top five immigration courts in the country whose judges are more likely to allow immigrants to stay in the country despite deportation orders sought by government trial attorneys representing the Department of Homeland Security.

According to the TRAC study, the Phoenix immigration court ranks No. 1 with “the highest proportion of individuals who were allowed to stay.” In second place was the New York immigration court, followed by Denver in third, San Antonio in fourth and then Miami in fifth, according to the study.

See the TRAC research here.

Read the newspaper’s story here: How lenient are Miami immigration judges? A study ranks the court

One Nation? It’s All Regional When It Comes To Staying In U.S.A.

The Associated Press, using the Freedom of Information Act, is reporting that “… youngsters whose applications are handled by the U.S. government’s regional offices in San Francisco and Los Angeles are far more likely to win approval from asylum officers than those applying in Chicago or Houston…” and the report also explains that “… the figures offer a snapshot of how the government is handling the huge surge over the past two years in the number of Central American children arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border unaccompanied by adults. Tens of thousands of youngsters — many of them fleeing gang violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras — have overflowed U.S. shelters and further clogged the nation’s overwhelmed immigration courts.”

The AP backgrounds that “… under federal law, these children can apply to remain in the country in a process that involves an interview with an asylum officer from one of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ eight regional offices. To win their cases, they must show that they have been persecuted or are in danger of persecution.” The report notes that “.. overall, 37 percent were granted asylum, but the rate varied dramatically from 86 percent at the San Francisco office, which handles applications for a swath of the Pacific Northwest, to 15 percent in Chicago, which covers 15 states from Ohio to Idaho.”

Read how much geography is destiny here: AP Exclusive: Children’s Asylum Approvals Vary by US Region