New Year Brings Increased Pressure On Immigration Courts

Photo: From Miami Herald report, 12/30/15

Photo: From Miami Herald report, 12/30/15

The new year brings a massive government roundup of women and families in the country illegally, which in turn raises the profile of would-be refugees claiming domestic violence as a reason for staying. The Miami Herald has an in-depth, potentially game-changing report that includes noting the half-million cases pending in Immigration Court, which is actually a civil function of the Justice Department and not a federal court in the usual sense.

The newspaper reported that in influx “… of unaccompanied minors and families from Central America that began last year has increased the backlog to nearly half a million cases in immigration court. To receive asylum in the United States, applicants must prove they have well-founded fears of persecution because of “race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.”

Which applicants are most likely to prevail often depends on judges’ backgrounds, what parts of the country the cases are heard in and whether they have lawyers, according to data from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, known as TRAC, at Syracuse University.

The newspaper also looks at recent judicial changes that might allow more families to stay, and notes the huge holding facilities in Texas. Really, a solid backgrounder in what is emerging as a potential presidential election issue, especially in the pivotal primary state of Florida.

Judge Says Court Closures May Bring Violence

Reduced access to civil courts will mean that people take the law into their own hands, including using violence in their disputes, according to a Los Angeles Superior Court judge. Phil Mautino, who is the supervising judge for the Los Padrinos Juvenile Court, told a Republican Lincoln Club group that personal injury cases are going to take five years to get to trial while for traffic court “there’s a line that circles around the building.”

“It means if you’re not going to court, you settle (the issue privately). It means violence. It’s like the old days of vengeance where if you kill my brother, I’ll kill your sister,” the judge told the Whittier Daily News in a recent report. “If you‘re willing to stand in line for a day or two, the officer may not show up [and] if you’re retired and plead not guilty, you have might have a good chance of getting off.” 

The Whittier courthouse was among the eight closed this year while two others have very limited services. All traffic court cases now are heard at the downtown Los Angeles and Beverly Hills court houses, small claims is limited to five courts (Downey for the Whittier area), and landlord-tenant evictions are divided between four courthouses.

See the story here.