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DHS Issuing “Dummy” Immigration Court Dates in Misguided Attempt to Comply with Law

By Peek & Toland on November 2, 2019

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents recently have been issuing “dummy” immigration court notices to immigrants. The notices contain court dates that fall on weekends, holidays, and on dates that do not exist, such as September 31st. Times stated on the court notices also are inaccurate, as they may fall outside of regular business hours or in the middle of the night. ICE is issuing these false court dates to comply with a federal court ruling stating that all Notices to Appear (NTAs) must contain court dates.

DHS Issuing “Dummy” Immigration Court Dates in Misguided Attempt to Comply with Law

Before the court ruling, NTAs often contained no court dates, merely stating “to be announced” or “TBA.” These notices included no court dates because there was no mechanism for coordinating efforts by ICE and the immigration court system. Although the court ruling required that all NTAs include dates, there still is no communication between ICE and the court system. Rather than waiting for the implementation of any such system, ICE has proceeded with the faulty NTAs to speed up the immigration court process and cut off eligibility for cancellation of removal sooner. Cancellation of removal is a form of relief available to some immigrants who have been residing in the U.S. for ten consecutive years.

Even worse, although the dates and times on the notices are false, the NTAs themselves are not false. If immigrations do not show up as ordered, even if there is no chance that their cases will be heard, they risk deportation. Therefore, immigrants often must arrange to travel great distances to avoid removal, even though they have no valid court dates. In these cases, they will receive a future date and time to appear, which will require additional travel and time spent waiting for a court date.

The immigration lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the immigration cases of countless individuals and businesses facing immigration-related issues. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf to get the outcome that you are seeking. Call our office today at (512) 474-4445 to set up an appointment with our immigration attorneys.

Posted in Immigration, Immigration Reform

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New EOIR Policies to Address “Dark Courtrooms”

By Peek & Toland on May 10, 2019

The director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) recently issued a policy memorandum that is designed to address “dark” or unused courtrooms in immigration courts nationwide. The policies outlined in this memorandum were to take effect May 1, 2019.

The memo noted that as of July 2017, more than 100 immigration courtrooms were not in use on Fridays. The director attributed these “lost opportunities” to delays in hiring more judges and overlapping alternative work schedules. The memo goes on to set forth various policies for ensuring that all available courtrooms are being used every day during normal operating hours.

More specifically, the director stated that EOIR would take the appropriate steps to address gaps in court scheduling so that they no longer exist, well in advance of any planned hearings. Nonetheless, the director went on to formalize the policy that there should never be an unused court room any day of the week during normal business hours, unless there a judge is unavailable. If judges are not physically available, the director continued, then they should be made available by video teleconferencing (VTC).

New EOIR Policies to Address Dark Courtrooms

The memo also informs immigration court judges that those with small dockets may be reassigned to hear cases in other courts with heavier dockets, either in person at nearby courts or via VTC. EOIR also may reassign cases permanently to other courts that have less of a backlog of cases. Judges must hear a sufficient number of cases to ensure that they meet the previously announced performance measures of closing a certain number of cases per year. Furthermore, if an immigration judge continues a hearing more than 30 days prior to the hearing date, then they should make sure that another hearing fills that empty spot in the court schedule. Supervisory immigration judges also are to hear cases at least a minimum number of days per month to help address the dark courtroom issue. In fact, if an immigration judge is not using a courtroom due to administrative duties, then the courtroom should be filled by supervisory judges, judges via VTC, or recently retired immigration judges, some of whom are still hearing cases.

No matter the type of immigration issue you are facing, the skilled and knowledgeable immigration lawyers of Peek & Toland are here to assist you. We handle many different types of immigration cases every day and have the kind of strategic experience and skills that are necessary to reach the desired outcome. By calling our office as quickly as possible after your legal issue arises, we will have the best opportunity to successfully resolve your immigration law case.

Posted in Immigration Reform

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Shutdown Worsens Strain on U.S. Immigration System

By Peek & Toland on January 30, 2019

As the government shutdown drags on, the strain on the U.S. immigration system only continues to escalate. According to a recent Washington Post article, while tens of thousands of U.S. immigration officers and agents continue to work each day, they aren’t being paid. They’re pegged as essential employees who have been ordered to work without pay, based on the promise that they will receive their backpay at some point in future. Of the approximately 245,000 employees of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), only about 14% of them are being paid.

Although most U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) still working on processing immigration petitions and applications, the immigration court system has not been so fortunate. Many of the judges and clerks who process immigration filings have been furloughed, which is only adding to the one million backlog of cases already pending. With an average 2,000 immigrants arriving at the border daily, immigration officials have nowhere to detain them and no hopes of processing them through the immigration court system anytime soon. As a result, the federal government has been steadily releasing hundreds of immigrants onto the streets of border cities such as El Paso, Texas, and Yuma, Arizona.

Shutdown Worsens Strain on U.S. Immigration System

Meanwhile, when U.S. companies and employers seeking to strictly comply with federal immigration laws attempt to use the government’s E-Verify system to check the immigration status of prospective employees, they have quickly found out that the system is completely non-operational. For some employers, particularly those along the southern border who tend hire more immigrants than other employers, they are unable to complete the hiring process until the system is back up, thus leading to fewer employees trying to handle too much work.

At Peek & Toland, we care about helping you obtain through your immigration problems. We will focus our efforts on advocating on your behalf and representing your interests throughout the immigration process. Our knowledgeable immigration lawyers know the best strategies for gathering documentation to support your goals. Allow us to handle your immigration law case by sitting down with us today and discussing your situation.

Posted in Immigration

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Immigration Court Backlog Increases to One Million Cases

By Peek & Toland on January 21, 2019

According to a recent report recently published by Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), a nonpartisan and nonprofit data research center housed at Syracuse University, the backlog in U.S. immigration courts has jumped by over 225,000 cases since January 2017. This has increased the backlog to over one million cases, which is a 49% overall growth rate in the number of pending immigration cases, which has doubled since the beginning of federal fiscal year 2017.

Part of this surge in the backlog is due to a recent decision of the now former U.S. Attorney General, Jeff Sessions. He issued a decision directing the Executive Office for Immigration Review to remove over 330,000 cases that the immigration courts had previously completed and reinstated them as pending cases. These are the cases that immigration judges previously had administratively closed.

 

Immigration Court Backlog Increases to One Million Cases

TRAC estimates that it would take over 3 ½ years to clear this backlog if the immigration courts solely heard pending cases and took no action on newly filed cases. However, if the courts hear both pending and new cases, it would take over five years to clear the backed up cases.

This backlog has continued to increase for various reasons, despite the fact that the number of administrative law judges appointed by the Trump administration has risen 17% and new case filings only has risen by 7.5%. Part of the increase in the backlog is definitely attributable not only to the reopening of administrative closed cases, but also the inability of immigration judges to use administration closure as a means of controlling their docket.

At the current number of pending cases, immigration judges have an average caseload of over 2,700 cases. Sessions also had adopted a quota system for the judges’ retention, in that they are required to close at least 700 cases per year. The high numbers of pending cases, when combined with the newly instituted quota system, makes the possibility of due process and other violations far more likely.

The Peek & Toland immigration lawyers are here to assist you with all your immigration needs. Trust us to represent your interests and advise you of the best course of action in your situation. Set up an appointment to talk to us today and discover how we can assist you with your immigration case.

Posted in Immigration

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