Immigration Courts Speed Review of Undocumented Immigrant Children Due to New Obama Directive
Immigration courts nationwide are encountering a backlog of scheduled cases, as influxes of undocumented immigrant children enter the U.S. The Baltimore Immigration Court is receiving attention for rapidly expediting cases, which could be a concern for the unaccompanied minors' future in the U.S.
According to the Baltimore Sun, the city's immigration court created a "rocket docket" to increase the number of cases of immigrant children heard by the court. The "rocket docket" was created because of President Barack Obama's directive to fast-track the cases. As a result of the "rocket docket," undocumented immigrant minors have 21 days to find an attorney.
Advocacy groups have voiced concern that the "rocket docket" procedure will increase the odds of having the immigrant children deported. The advocacy groups noted some minors have difficulty in finding an attorney or legal counsel.
"Four to five weeks isn't enough time to find an attorney," said Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington's Michelle Mendez, via the Baltimore Sun. "I'm not sure what the goal is, but the reality is that kids are getting removal orders in absentia."
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has transferred 2,804 immigrant children to Maryland as of July 31. Although the three-week time limit concerns groups, the Department of Justice reassured them that the children will have their due process.
"We continue to support our mission of adjudicating immigration cases fairly and expeditiously while uniformly interpreting and administrating the law," DOJ spokesperson Lauren Alder Reid said.
According to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, the average immigration case in Maryland can take 487 days to complete, which is down from the national average of 520 days.
In Miami, lawyers are receiving training sessions to respond to the increasing backlog of cases in immigration courts. In New York City, a Manhattan immigration court saw the judge review 29 cases during one day, and many of the immigrants had no legal representation.
A TRAC report revealed 47.5 percent of undocumented minors with legal counsel are more likely to attend immigration court hearings and be granted the right to stay in the U.S. The study revealed nine out of 10 children without an attorney are deported.
According to Pew Research Center, 53 percent of Americans are in favor of accelerating immigration cases, "even if that means that some children who are eligible for asylum are deported."
Republican and independent voters agree that immigration cases should be sped up with 60 percent and 56 percent suppport, respectively. Democrats were split ,with 46 percent favoring a "rocket docket" method, but 47 percent disagreed and prefer the current system even if it takes longer to process the case.
The Department of Justice noted that the nation's immigration courts have a backlog of 375,373 cases, approximately 50,000 more cases than in 2012.
Congressional funding for the immigration courts for 2014 is $312 million, an increase from 2013's $289 million. Despite the funding increase, the number of unaccompanied undocumented immigrant children is projected to grow to 90,000 by the end of this year. The White House also forecast about 150,000 undocumented children will enter the U.S. by 2015.
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