Govt. Adding More Beds To Handle ‘Border Kids’

The new surge in unaccompanied children showing up at U.S. borders seeking asylum has prompted the federal government to move toward two new shelters, the New York Times is reporting. The paper says that the government is moving toward “two shelters in Texas and one in California this month, adding at least 1,400 beds to handle the increased flow, senior Obama administration officials said Monday.”
According to a 12/7/15 NYT report, "A United States Border Patrol vehicle at the border wall near Abram, Tex., last month. Credit Delcia Lopez/The Monitor, via Associated Press"

According to a 12/7/15 NYT report, “A United States Border Patrol vehicle at the border wall near Abram, Tex., last month. Credit Delcia Lopez/The Monitor, via Associated Press”

Family detention centers and the unaccompanied youth centers have been controversial and a federal judge has ordered the family shelters closed, although officials hope to work around that order. The Times also notes that “… on Monday, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the secretary of health and human services, asked the Pentagon to also prepare tentative plans to provide shelter for 5,000 more youths. Those beds are not needed at this time, officials said, but the health department, which runs the shelters, would give the Department of Defense 30 days’ notice to get them ready if the numbers of young border crossers continue to rise.”
Immigration cases are often incorrectly seen as criminal court issues. The “courts” are actually a function of the U.S. Justice Department and those facing actions are classified as civil court participants. One effect of that is they do not have the same rights to counsel as if they were criminally charged.

New Delays Loom As Court Interpreters Seek New Deal

Less than 15 percent of U.S. Immigration Court proceedings are conducted entirely in English, meaning that interpreters are vital to getting things done. Now, already facing more than 450,000 cases backlogged for years, the immigration justice system may lose many of those language assets. BuzzFeed News is reporting that “… interpreters across the country are refusing to sign on to a new contract to service U.S. immigration courts, citing what they call unacceptably low pay and poor working conditions.
The background in the report: “Immigration courts are part of the executive branch and administered by the Department of Justice. DoJ uses a combination of 67 staff and 1,650 freelance interpreters to ensure that immigrants facing deportation understand the proceedings against them. In July, the Justice Department switched contractors, awarding a new contract for more than $12 million annually to SOSi, according to a database of federal contracts. The contract can be extended five years for a total of about $58 million.
“The contract was initially slated to kick in on September 21, according to DOJ. However, emails to the interpreters from from Lionbridge, the company that currently holds the contract, state that the switch had been deferred to November. Interpreters around the country refused to agree to SOSi’s terms under the new contract because of low pay and ungenerous travel reimbursement and cancellation policies, according to several interpreters interviewed by BuzzFeed News. Because the interpreters are organizing informally, the precise number refusing to sign on is unclear. However, two interpreters in different regions told BuzzFeed News they were each in direct contact with more than 100 interpreters who had refused. On any given day, there are about 300 contract interpreters working for the immigration courts, according to a spokesperson for the courts. That means that about a third of interpreters could be unavailable once the new contract kicks in.”

Civil Rights Report Blasts Family Detention Centers For Asylum Seekers

A new report released last week by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, added to the complaints about the U.S. government’s family detention centers that house asylum seekers who entered the country illegally. Reuters is reporting that the group said it found evidence that the federal government “was interfering with the constitutional rights afforded to detained immigrants,” including their access to legal representation.
Reuters offers context: “… a year ago, President Barack Obama responded to a ‘humanitarian crisis’ unfolding on the U.S. southwestern border with Mexico, as tens of thousands of children – some traveling with parents and others alone – arrived from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Among steps he took were a rapid expansion of detention facilities for migrant women and children. It marked a departure from previous practices of largely tracking the immigrants with electronic ankle bracelets and telephone check-ins, which immigration rights groups argued were effective and far less costly.”
Meanwhile, a federal judge in California has ordered the government to close the facilities because they violate a longstanding agreement on how such asylum seekers will be treated. See that story in the L.A. Times here.