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.
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 currently provide the attorney general with the ultimate say of how immigration law is interpreted and applied. 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.