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?

The Key To Immigration? Hiring An Attorney

Wilfredo Allen, center, consults with Marlene Hasner and Camila Correal in his Miami office. Photo Credit: 10/30/16 Miami Herald Report

Wilfredo Allen, center, consults with Marlene Hasner and Camila Correal in his Miami office. Photo Credit: 10/30/16 Miami Herald Report

A Miami Herald report is adding fuel to the argument that would-be immigrants with legal representation fare much better than those without. The newspaper focuses on an individual case that “… seems to prove the theory among immigration lawyers that foreign nationals represented by an attorney in immigration court proceedings have a better chance of winning their case than those left to their own devices. But the first formal study on legal representation of foreign nationals in immigration proceedings actually proves the validity of that theory.”
“By reviewing over 1.2 million deportation cases decided across the United States over a six-year period, this report provides an urgent portrait of the lack of counsel in immigration courts,” according to the study issued by the American Immigration Council. “In it, we reveal that 63 percent of all immigrants went to court without an attorney. Detained immigrants were even less likely to obtain counsel — 86 percent attended their court hearings without an attorney. For immigrants held in remote detention centers, access to counsel was even more severely impaired, only 10 percent of immigrants detained in small cities obtained counsel.”
You can read the Herald story here: 

Another NBC I-Team Bombshell On Immigration Court Crisis

There must have been a memo. Another NBC station is breaking news on the immigration court crisis, with the New York affiliate reporting on a huge loophole for entering the U.S. The station’s in-depth coverage includes that “… according to court sources… [the source] is at least the 14th Amandeep Singh from the Punjab state of India to seek immigration help in Queens Family Court — a place better known for custody and child support cases. Singh tells a judge he was abused by his parents, starved and beaten with sticks. Although this may be completely true, judges say they have no investigative recourse. After one hour in court, Singh, who is undocumented and was smuggled across the border, was well on his way to getting a green card, permanent legal status and the right to work in the U.S.”
Read the story here.

Driving Issue: 131K Licenses Issued To Undocumented In California

Citing state officials, Reuters is reporting that California issued “about 131,000 driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants in January and February, the first two months since the state began granting the permits to people who are in the country illegally.”
The news services added that “the most populous U.S. state joined nine others and the District of Columbia in granting licenses to drivers regardless of immigration status, a controversial move that marked a significant shift in policy toward immigrants in California.” The lack of a driver’s license has long been a problem in the Golden State, prompting some cities to issue their own forms of ID.
Between 2 million and 3 million unauthorized immigrants are believed to live in California, making them the nation’s largest such population. Immigration courts, meanwhile, face a backup of some 400,000 cases. Such cases are civil, not criminal, proceedings. To read more about the driving issue, click here.

NPR Follow-Up Humanizes Those Border Kids Cases

As the United States punts on its obligation to deal with asylum seeking children on its southern border, a new NPR report follows up on the story of  Jose, no last name or country used for fear of gang retaliation, who is “… one of almost 60,000 unaccompanied minors from Central America now living with family and friends in the United States. Most of the youths are awaiting court hearings to determine whether or not they can stay in the country. Many are also going to school and trying to get settled in new homes and new communities.”
NPR says that “a recent study by Syracuse University found that two-thirds of unaccompanied minors do not have legal representation — and that having it makes a big difference; those with attorneys are far more likely to be allowed to stay in the United States.”
As we have noted before, immigration courts have the look and feel of regular courts, but are actually civil proceedings and the judges are actually Justice Department employees In effect, the “courts” are hearings and NPR quotes one legal-services activist saying “… these kids are facing exile and in some cases death. It’s also very hard to represent yourself pro se when you’re a 10-year-old in a new country and you don’t speak the language.”

Thousands Of Immigration Cases Delayed Until At Least 2019

The Dallas Morning News is reporting that “… thousands of immigrants seeking legalization through the U.S. court system have had their hearings canceled and are being told by the government that it may be 2019 or later before their futures are resolved.” The paper says that “… immigration lawyers in cities that absorbed a large share of those cases, including New York, San Antonio, Los Angeles and Denver, say they’ve had hearings canceled with little notice and received no new court dates. Work permits, green cards, asylum claims, and family reunifications hang in the balance.”
By way of background, the cancellations began began to skyrocket over the summer as the Justice Department prioritized the tens of thousands of Central American migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, most of them mothers with children and the high-profile arrival of unaccompanied minors.
The Dallas newspaper report quotes David Martin, a law professor at the University of Virginia who worked for two Democratic presidents, who “criticized Congress and the Obama administration for not funding more immigration judges.” He also told the paper that “… you fund more investigators, more detention space, more border patrol, almost all of these are going to produce some kind of immigration court case… you are putting a lot more people into the system. It’s just going to be a big bottleneck unless you increase the size of that pipeline.” Read the story here.

Central American Cases Push Others Aside

One way to respond to the immigration courts crisis highlighted by those unaccompanied minors from Central America would be to overhaul the system and increase capacity. Another would be to push those cases ahead of others in hopes of discouraging other migrants from coming. Guess which one we’re doing? 
The Houston Chronicle has a strong story about “… a startling turnaround for a clogged immigration court system that usually takes about six months between just these first steps [as opposed to 30 days], reflecting the government’s effort to push Central American cases through the pipeline to deter other migrants from coming. The aggressive effort, however, has ramifications for others in the system, which is facing a record backlog of more than 430,000 cases nationwide. Some immigrants’ hearings have been delayed indefinitely, which can impede time-sensitive cases and jeopardize their chances of gaining legal residency. Mexicans, who make up the largest portion of immigration courts’ caseload, saw their disposition times increase by about 13 percent to 533 days, according to a new analysis of court records by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.”
“The Central American cases have completely taken over the docket,” immigration attorney Salvador Colon told the paper, while another noted that “they’re shoving all the Central Americans in front saying, ‘Go home and tell everyone else not to come because you’re going to be deported. The immigration court here looks like a day care because there are so many little kids hopping around.”

Immigration Court Rationing Retains Attention

The “Border Kid” refugee/immigration crisis continues to gain attention, with media coverage moving away from the sheer numbers (nearly 400,000 cases pending, for example) into the human interest stories. A good case in point is a Daily Beast online report from the New York immigration court. New York City, like San Francisco, is providing some legal representation assistance for the kids, which assists an array of non-profit and religious groups offering some assistance. But the DB points out that New York is second only to Texas in how many cases it must accept in the new “rocket docket” policy for the children.
The DB also notes that “… the U.S. government is not legally required to provide a lawyer for people going through immigration proceedings—even for young kids. So New York-based advocacy groups like the Safe Passage Project, The Door, the Legal Aid Society, Catholic Charities and the American Immigration Lawyers Association have sprung into action, rallying volunteers, interpreters and pro bono attorneys in a joint effort to help guide the Border Kids through the complex and confusing world of immigration court.”
The volume is staggering, with lawyers being given weeks to prepare cases they feel should take months. Read the report from the courthouse here: The Border Kid Crisis Hits the Courts

Immigration ‘Rocket Docket’ Raises Ire In S.F.

Local officials in San Francisco are raising issues with the Department of Justice “rocket docket” for unaccompanied Central American minors who were caught or surrendered to authorities at the U.S. border. The San Francisco Bay Guardian newspaper is reporting that courts are now “… cramming through as many as 50 cases daily.”
“This new docket is dramatically accelerating the pace for the cases of newly arrived, traumatized children and families from Central America,” Robin Goldfaden of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Bay Area wrote in an email to the Bay Guardian. “For many, a wrong decision can mean being sent back to unspeakable harm – brutal beatings, rapes, even death. … But nonprofit legal services providers, already stretched beyond capacity, simply do not have the number of attorneys and other staff required to meet the ever-rising level of need.” 
At the Sept. 2 Board of Supervisor’s meeting, one county official proposed a budgetary supplemental to allocate $1.2 million for legal representation for unaccompanied youth being processed in immigration court in the Bay Area. “Under international law, many of these kids would actually qualify as refugees,” said the official. “And many of them have cases that would allow them to be protected by immigration law in the US…”

S.F. Stepping Up In Border-Child Crisis

Citing its tradition of being a “Sanctuary City” for immigration, documented or not, San Francisco has become the first California city to provide funding for attorneys representing immigrants facing deportation. The money will go through the nonprofit Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights. It’s an important move, in part, because government funding including most federal programs cannot pay for representing immigrants in deportation situations.
Terry Collins of the Associated Press reported that “.. since January, nearly 200 children in San Francisco who entered the country unaccompanied by an adult now have adult sponsors and cases pending in immigration court, the U.S. Health and Human Services Department reported… advocates believe there are hundreds more children who have sought refuge in the city without a sponsor, officials added.”
The AP report also noted that “… the U.S. Justice Department has ordered immigration courts to make cases involving unaccompanied minors entering the country a priority. California has the largest backlog of immigration court cases, followed by Texas and New York, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. While San Francisco is the first Golden State city to offer attorney-focused assistance, the city of New York has a similar program and the state of California is spending several million dollars on the issue.

 Read more here: San Francisco to help fund immigration attorneys