THE ATLANTIC: Priscilla Alvarez Exposes Nation’s Largest Failing Court System: U.S. Immigration Court — Quoting Me: “A fully trained judge, which new judges won’t be, can do about 750 cases a year. So 125 new judges could do fewer than 100,000 cases a year once they’re up and trained, . . . .” — No Amount Of Resources Can Overcome Screwed Up Priorities, Political Meddling, & Management Problems Inherent In The Current “Designed To Fail” System — Due Processes Takes A Back Seat!

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/04/trump-immigration-court-ice/523557/

Priscilla writes in an article that also contains quotes from highly respected DC area immigration practitioner Dree Collopy (emphasis added in below excerpt):

“Responding to the 2014 migrant wave, the Obama administration temporarily redirected immigration judges to the southern border to preside over removal proceedings and bond hearings, and review whether any individuals’ claims of fear of persecution were credible. Immigration cases being heard in other parts of the United States had to be put on hold, said Jeremy McKinney, an attorney and board member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. “The surge was the first time we saw a deployment of immigration judges to the border, resulting in non-detained dockets in the United States getting much worse,” McKinney said, referring to cases that do not require detention. “That situation already put a strain on the interior immigration courts.”

The Justice Department, which hires judges for immigration courts, was also tied up by the budget sequester from 2011 to 2014, so there weren’t enough judges to try cases, he added. Over time, the backlog grew from around 327,000 cases at the end of the 2012 fiscal year to half a million in 2016.

Judge Paul Schmidt, who was appointed in 2003 by Attorney General John Ashcroft, had around 10,000 immigration cases pending when he left his job last year. “When I retired, I was sending cases to 2022,” he told me. Schmidt, who primarily served in the Arlington Immigration Court in northern Virginia, was assigned to those not considered a priority—say, people who had traffic violations. The current national backlog, Schmidt said, largely consists of cases like the ones he handled.

The Trump administration has taken steps that could quicken the courts’ work. For one, ICE officers can now deport someone immediately, without a hearing, if they fit certain criteria and have lived in the United States for up to two years. Under the last administration, that timeline was up to two weeks, and the individual needed to be within 100 miles of the border.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions also announced, in a speech on the Arizona-Mexico border, that the Department of Justice will add 125 immigration judges to the bench over the next two years: 50 this year and 75 in 2018. He urged federal prosecutors to prioritize the enforcement of immigration laws. “This is a new era. This is the Trump era,” Sessions said. “The lawlessness, the abdication of the duty to enforce our immigration laws, and the catch-and-release practices of old are over.”

“You have to give Sessions credit for this,” Schmidt said. “He took note of the 18-to-24-month cycle for filling judges and said he was going to streamline that.” The math still doesn’t exactly work out, however. “A fully trained judge, which new judges won’t be, can do about 750 cases a year. So 125 new judges could do fewer than 100,000 cases a year once they’re up and trained,” he said. Factor in the fact that it takes up to two years to become “fully productive,” he said, and altogether, it could take five to six years for the 125 new judges to cut down the backlog.

All the while, new cases will continue to come in as the administration enforces its new, broader policies on deportation. Newly detained individuals will be prioritized over other cases, which will be pushed further down the road. “I think it has a particular impact on asylum-seekers, because the sense of being in limbo really seems to prolong their trauma and their sense of statelessness that they have,” said Dree Collopy, an immigration lawyer in Washington, D.C. And hearing delays can affect asylum-seekers’ credibility, as well as evidence to support their cases: “Over time, especially when trauma is involved, memories begin to fade.” If a person can’t testify until years after entering the United States, “that can obviously cause problems.”

When Collopy first started practicing immigration law in 2007, cases generally would take about a year or two to complete. That’s no longer the case: “Now, it’s taking four or five years on average,” she told me. With the Trump administration rounding up undocumented immigrants quicker than courts can process cases, that delay isn’t likely to shorten.”

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Read Priscilla’s full article at the above link.

A “smart” strategy would address the 542,000 pending cases before piling on new priorities. Under a more rational policy, those in the current backlog with equities in the U.S., “clean records,” or only minor criminal histories, could be offered “prosecutorial discretion” (“PD”) and taken off the Immigration Court’s docket to make room for higher priority cases.

However, instead of encouraging more use of PD, which was starting to make some difference by the end of the Obama Administration, the Trump Administration has basically made “everything” a potential “priority.” Moreover, as a “double whammy” the Administration has basically “disempowered” those at DHS who know the Immigration Court system the best, the local ICE Assistant Chief Counsel, from freely exercising PD to take non-criminal cases off the docket.

Ironically, at the same time, DHS appears to be giving line enforcement agents the “green light” to arrest just about anyone who might be removable for any reason. However, the line agents unlikely to understand the limitations of the current Immigration Court system and what is already “on the docket.”

The Immigration Court system is basically the opposite of most other law enforcement systems where prosecutors, rather than policemen or agents, determine what cases will be brought before the court. And, in most functioning court systems, the individual sitting judges control their own dockets, rather than having priorities set by politically-driven non-judicial bureaucrats in other places. It certainly appears to be a prescription for disaster. Stay tuned!

PWS

04-21-17

NOTE: In an earlier version of this article I “blew” Priscilla’s name by calling her “Patricia.” My apologies. I’ve now corrected it.

USA TODAY: Even Without Trump’s “Fully Enhanced” Enforcement, U.S. Immigration Courts Are Drowning In Cases — Limits On “Prosecutorial Discretion” By DHS Already Adversely Affecting Dockets!

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2017/04/17/immigration-courts-new-rules-trump/98674758/

Rick Jervis, Alan Gomez, and Gustavo Solis report:

“In San Antonio, an immigration judge breezes through more than 20 juvenile cases a day, warning those in the packed courtroom to show up at their next hearing — or risk deportation.

A Miami immigration lawyer wrestles with new federal rules that could wind up deporting clients who, just a few weeks ago, appeared eligible to stay.

Judges and attorneys in Los Angeles struggle with Mandarin translators and an ever-growing caseload.

Coast to coast, immigration judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys are straining to decipher how the federal immigration rules released in February by the Trump administration will impact the system — amid an already burgeoning backlog of existing cases.

 

The new guidelines, part of President Trump’s campaign promise to crack down on illegal immigration,  give enforcement agents greater rein to deport immigrants without hearings and detain those who entered the country without permission.

But that ambitious policy shift faces a tough hurdle: an immigration court system already juggling more than a half-million cases and ill-equipped to take on thousands more.

“We’re at critical mass,” said Linda Brandmiller, a San Antonio immigration attorney who works with juveniles. “There isn’t an empty courtroom. We don’t have enough judges. You can say you’re going to prosecute more people, but from a practical perspective, how do you make that happen?”

Today, 301 judges hear immigration cases in 58 courts across the United States. The backlogged cases have soared in recent years, from 236,415 in 2010 to 508,036 this year — or nearly 1,700 outstanding cases per judge, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a data research group at Syracuse University.

Some judges and attorneys say it’s too early to see any effects from the new guidelines. Others say they noticed a difference and fear that people with legitimate claims for asylum or visas may be deported along with those who are criminals.

USA TODAY Network sent reporters to several immigration courts across the country to witness how the system is adjusting to the new rules.”

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Read the entire article, with reports from the Miami, Los Angeles, and San Antonio U.S. Immigration courts at the above link.

As I mentioned in the previous post, http://wp.me/p8eeJm-IG, one of the ways the Trump Administration apparently plans to deal with the U.S. Immigration Court “bottleneck” is by avoiding the court altogether through expanded use of “Expedited Removal” before DHS officers.

Additionally, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has announced plans to “streamline” the existing hiring process for U.S. Immigration Judges and to seek an additional 125 Immigration Judges over the next tow years (although those new judgeships would require congressional approval). http://wp.me/p8eeJm-Gp

PWS

04-17-17

L.A.’s Already Overwhelmed Immigration Court Could Simply Collapse Under A Trump Enforcement Initiative!

http://www.scpr.org/programs/take-two/2016/12/27/54010/la-s-busy-immigration-courts-could-swell-under-tru

“The burden on judges could also increase, as dockets swell with more cases and those on the bench come under increasing pressure to render decisions.

“I see this as a pot that is going to boil over and scald everybody,” said Bruce Einhorn, a former immigration judge in Los Angeles. “I just don’t see pragmatically how you can almost double the number of cases without spending huge amounts of money to try to accommodate the dockets of the cases already on schedule and those that will be brought into the system.”

The backlog of cases is not new. It has steadily increased over the past decade — even as fewer immigrants have been apprehended along the Southwest border in recent years. In response, the Executive Office for Immigration Review, the agency that oversees the courts, has added more judges, including one to Los Angeles in November. It’s also prioritized juvenile cases in an effort to speed up cases of migrant youth.”

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The full article, at the link, contains a 9-minute audio segment. Does anyone seriously think that adding one Immigration Judge in Los Angeles or “prioritizing” juvenile cases will solve this mess?

Actually, the misguided prioritization of juvenile cases, many of them unrepresented, over longer pending cases of represented individuals is exactly the type of “Aimless Docket Reschuffling” that has created a practically insurmountable backlog in the Immigration Courts, notwithstanding a modest decline in new case receipts and a modest increase in resources.  The inability of the DOJ and EOIR to establish an efficient merit hiring system for new Immigrstion Judges and poor planning for additional courtrooms to house new judges has also aggravated the problem.

PWS

01/05/17