The immigration courts face long delays and backlogs. However, calls for quicker deportations remain controversial.
Recently, chief immigration judge MaryBeth Keller issued a memo calling all immigration judges and court staff to give priority to the quicker deportation of immigrants with pending court cases.
The information was contained in a recent U.S. Department of Justice memo.
Keller gave additional guidance to immigration judges to efficiently adjudicate their caseload as quickly as possible to decrease the growing backlog of court cases.
Keller warned frequent and lengthy continuances that give immigrants more time to present supporting evidence in their cases were contributing to the backlog.
She claimed some immigrants were abusing the system of continuances because it is to their advantage to remain in the United States. Keller wrote:
“It is critically important that Immigration Judges use continuances appropriately and only where warranted for good cause or by authority established by case law. It is sound docket management to carefully consider administrative efficiency, case delays, and the effects of multiple continuances on the efficient administration of justice in the immigration courts.”
Keller supported a general policy of allowing at least one continuance for immigrants to find legal counsel.
Immigrants are not guaranteed legal counsel in immigration hearings.
Keller suggested judges should resist granting continuances for merits hearings unless there is a good legal basis.
The memo came at a time when the Trump administration is seeking to speed up deportations.
The administration has pressed the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to detain undocumented immigrants who pose national security and public safety threats for deportation proceedings.
However, officials have not exempted the detention of any category of undocumented immigrant in that time including those without criminal records considered low priority under the previous administration.
Keller’s memo draws attention to 610,000 pending cases on the dockets of immigration courts, points out Think Progess.
About half of these cases are in Texas, California and New York.
From December 2013 to 2016, former President Barack Obama tasked immigration judges to prioritize the deportation of thousands of children from Central America who had fled violence in their homes via a “rocket docket.” This required judges and attorneys to speed up court proceedings to process these immigrants.
As president, Donald Trump signed executive orders calling for more money to for detention centers to hold immigrants, cash for more immigration judges, and ICE agents.
Last year, we noted Texas has the largest backlog of immigration cases in the country – 89,000 and growing.
If you are seeking help with an immigration matter in Austin, San Antonio, Round Rock, Laredo or elsewhere in Texas, please call us at (512) 474-4445.