On April Fool’s Day, John Oliver took on a serious topic: the United
States’ immigration court system. During a segment on a recent episode of
Last Week Tonight, he exposed the widespread injustice of immigration courts, including
how they fail to protect immigrant children.
Dana Leigh Marks, an immigration judge, said that “essentially, we
are doing death penalty cases in a traffic court setting.” Immigration
judges compare these hearings to death penalty cases because an order
of deportation can, in effect, be a death sentence—either by violence
or from rampant diseases unchecked by an impoverished and/or corrupt government—for
those who are forced to return to their homeland.
According to Last Week Tonight, there are at least three significant factors
that have contributed to the dysfunction that exists in many immigration courts:
Massive backlog of cases – Over 360,000 cases were pending before only 230 immigration judges,
meaning that the average caseload is over 1,500, nearly four times the
caseload carried by a typical District Court judge. The average wait time
to get a hearing is three years in San Francisco, four years in Atlanta,
and even five years in Chicago. While waiting to see a judge, witnesses
can go missing or evidence can become irrelevant.
No right to legal counsel – Immigration courts are civil courts, which means those going through
the immigration court system don’t have access to the same things
that an individual in criminal court has, such as public defenders. Unfortunately,
only 37 percent have legal counsel going in, which means that most people—including
undocumented children as young as two years old and those who may not
speak English well—have to represent themselves.
Immigration courts are run by the Department of Justice – This means that immigration courts are actually part of the executive
branch, as opposed to being part of the judicial branch like any other
court in the country. The way the courts are currently set up give the
attorney general substantial power to almost single-handedly direct how
immigration law is interpreted in the country. Current U.S. Attorney General
Jeff Sessions has hardly been friendly to immigrants. He wishes to make
it hard for those seeking asylum to make their cases to stay here.
Whether you are facing deportation or seeking asylum, it is wise to get
the experienced legal help from a qualified immigration attorney. At
Appel & Morse, we understand the complexities of U.S. immigration laws and can help
our clients obtain the outcome they desire.
If you need experienced legal representation when you go to immigration
court, request a
free consultation with our
Santa Barbara immigration lawyer today.