immigration courts

U.S. Immigration Court System on Brink of Collapse

By Peek & Toland on November 22, 2019

A recent article in The Hill highlighted the American Bar Association (ABA) report entitled, “Reforming the Immigration System.” In its report, the ABA described the current immigration system as “facing an existential crisis” and “on the brink of collapse.” About the same time as the ABA released its report, the immigration case backlog reached an unprecedented one million cases.

Years of backlogged applications undermine the fairness and effectiveness of the immigration system. Individuals with valid asylum claims must wait years for relief and individuals with non-meritorious claims can remain the country for years. The federal government also has increasingly instituted hiring practices and policy changes that attempt to politicize immigration judges and hamper their ability to issue neutral decisions.

U.S. Immigration Court System on Brink of Collapse

The ABA proposes creating a new Article I court system that falls under the judiciary branch of the federal government rather than the executive branch. The current status of the immigration court system as part of the executive branch subjects the system to political influence. This proposal mirrors the recommendations set forth by the Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy 38 years ago, which

Without substantive reform of the immigration court system, the backlog of cases will continue to grow. The already excessive backlog of over 542,000 cases as of January 2017 had almost doubled by August 2019. The average wait time for a hearing in immigration court is 696 days. Additionally, over 322,000 currently pending cases are not yet counted in the active caseload of the immigration courts, as immigration court judges had administratively closed the cases under previous administrations.

Moreover, there is no end in sight to the backlog. As of the end of August 2019, the immigration court system had resolved only about 262,000 cases. Even if no more removal cases were added to the current backlog, it still would take five years for the immigration courts to clear the backlog.

The immigration attorneys of Peek & Toland have the experience that you need when you are seeking any relief or benefit under federal immigration laws. We will determine the facts and evidence that are relevant to your case, evaluate your options, and help you decide the best course of action for your situation. We intend to place you in the best position possible to achieve your goals. Contact our Texas immigration attorneys at our office today and learn how we can assist you through this complicated situation.

Posted in Immigration Reform

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National Association of Immigration Judges President Slams Tent Courts

By Peek & Toland on November 19, 2019

Under the Trump Administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), which went into effect earlier this year, immigration officials have returned more than 45,000 migrants to Mexico to await asylum hearings. As a result, thousands of asylum-seekers have simply given up on their claims rather than risk the violence inherent in living in Mexican border towns.

Furthermore, in Laredo and Brownsville, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has enacted “tent courts” outside of the ports of entry. DHS has banned the public and the press from the proceedings held in these tent courts, which occur with an immigration judge presiding over cases by video teleconference. For journalists and members of the public to view these hearings, they must travel to the courts where the judges conducting the hearings are located.

According to one reporter for the Texas Observer who attended some of these hearings, many migrants simply did not appear in court as scheduled. Others pleaded to not be returned to Mexico, where they had been assaulted. Most migrants were confused, unclear about how to file for asylum, with very few migrants being represented by attorneys. Even worse, major translation errors seemed to plague the hearings, which migrants often unable to understand the judge.

National Association of Immigration Judges President Slams Tent Courts

As a result of these hearings, immigration judge and president of the National Association of Immigration Judges Ashley Tabbador has publicly denounced the tent courts. She pointed out several issues with MPP and the resulting court hearings, including:

  • Caseloads too large to handle and too many hearings scheduled at one time
  • Migrants overwhelmingly unable to access legal assistance
  • No addresses for migrants to send them correspondence about their cases
  • Tent court hearings run by prosecutors rather than by immigration judges, who are not even physically present for the hearings
  • No accountability to the public by conducted closed proceedings

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 Asylum, Immigration Reform

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Immigration Judges, Attorneys Oppose Replacement of In-Person Translation with Video Instructions

By Peek & Toland on October 17, 2019

Immigration judge and translators alike are vehemently opposing a plan by the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) to replace in-person translators for immigrants during initial deportation hearings with recorded video instructions. The videos initially will be available in Spanish and expand to 20 other languages in the future. They will give information about courtroom proceedings, immigrant rights and obligations, and other frequently asked questions. EOIR contends that the move will increase efficiency in the immigration court system.

Some critics of the plan fear that the lack of in-person translators will be confusing for immigrants attending initial deportation hearing, who may have questions that go unanswered. They also fear that the plan will harm the due process rights of immigrants. Furthermore, many recent immigrants, such as those from Guatemala, speak indigenous languages rather than Spanish. Many immigrants also are unable to read Spanish or have limited abilities, at best.

Immigration Judges, Attorneys Oppose Replacement of In-Person Translation
with Video Instructions

In a recent Buzzfeed article, one immigration judge stated that in his opinion, the video would create a distraction and ultimately make the initial hearing process longer. He said that without in-person simultaneous translation, he would have no ability to ensure that immigrants understand their rights and options. Another immigration judge emphasized the fact that specific parts of the initial immigration hearing must be done individually, and a video will not help with those parts of the hearing. Instead, without in-person translation, there will be an inability to communicate with many immigrants in any meaningful fashion.

EOIR further advised immigration judges to schedule hearings with attorneys first, followed by those without attorneys. According to EOIR, this schedule would allow interpreters in other parts of the court to become available for translation in later hearings. The courts also have the option of using telephone interpreters during initial hearings.

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.

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Federal Court Continues to Require Immigration Courts to Conduct Bond Hearings

By Peek & Toland on October 7, 2019

In April 2019, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington’s preliminary injunction in Padilla v. U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, in which the plaintiffs were challenging delays in bond hearings and credible fear interviews for some asylum seekers. In its preliminary injunction, the district court had ordered that immigration courts provide bond hearings with new procedural protections within seven days of requests or release the individuals from detention.

Shortly thereafter, Attorney General William Barr issued a decision in Matter of M-S-, that would eliminate bond hearings for all individuals who enter the U.S. without inspection, are placed in expedited removal proceedings, and establish a creditable fear of persecution or torture if deported to their native countries.

On July 2, 2019, the district court modified its preliminary injunction to state that immigration courts must continue to provide bond hearings within seven days for affected individuals with new procedural protections, despite the decision in Matter of M-S-. The federal government immediately appealed the modified injunction to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Federal Court Continues to Require Immigration Courts to Conduct Bond Hearings

The Ninth Circuit granted a temporary stay of the district court’s orders to allow the parties to complete briefs on the government’s motion to stay the orders. Following submission of briefs by the parties, the Ninth Circuit granted the motion for stay in part and denied it in part. More specifically, the Ninth Circuit declined to require immigration courts to hold bond hearings within seven days with new procedural protections, but left that portion of the injunction intact that required the immigration courts to continue to hold bond hearings for these individuals. The injunction does not apply, however, to individuals who appeared at a port of inspection to request asylum and passed a credible fear interview.

Whatever your situation may be, you will need skilled legal assistance to work toward a resolution of your immigration matter. The Texas immigration attorneys of Peek & Toland know how to help you navigate through the maze of immigration forms, regulations, and policies, and get the relief that you need. Take the first step today and secure the future of your family in the U.S. Contact our office today at and set up an evaluation with one of our highly skilled Texas immigration lawyers.

Posted in Immigration

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Immigration Lawyers File Complaint About El Paso Immigration Court

By Peek & Toland on May 16, 2019

The American Immigration Council and the American Immigration Lawyers Association recently filed a formal complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) about the judges at the El Paso Servicing Center. In their complaint, the lawyers state that the bias of these judges against their clients is preventing them from having fair hearings. The complaint relies heavily on statistics on the approval of asylum petitions at this location.

In FY 2017, the judges in the El Paso court approved only four of the 92 asylum cases that it heard, which is an approval rate of 4.5%. In FY 2016, the judges in this location approved asylum in three out of 133 cases. The nationwide average for the approval of asylum petitions by immigration courts is 40%.

Immigration Lawyers File Complaint About El Paso Immigration Court

The complainants also state that the judges are openly rude and hostile to their clients, treating them all with contempt. Furthermore, the judges have imposed an arbitrary 100-page limit on evidence in support of asylum claims and now require that all evidence be submitted prior to even scheduling a hearing. This requirement places a hardship on these immigrants, who often must request written documentation from their distance home countries. As a result, immigrants must either proceed and request a trial date based on the evidence they already have, or wait for more evidence, which only prolongs the court date and their detention, which may become indefinite.

Furthermore, Judge Abbott rarely grants bonds in asylum cases, which gives these immigrants little access to counsel, even by pro bono attorneys. While about 66% of non-detained individuals have the benefit of attorney representation, only about 14% of detained immigrants have an attorney. In assessing whether to grant bond, Abbott reportedly considers the strength of the immigrants’ asylum claim rather than assessing whether immigrants are flight risks or dangers to the community. Our Texas immigration lawyers are here to offer you the experienced legal representation and advice that you need in order to resolve your immigration law matter. We can act as your guide through the complicated immigration process to obtain the relief that you are seeking. Call our office today and learn about the type of assistance we can offer you.

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Federal Government’s Plan for Reducing Immigration Court Backlog

By Peek & Toland on April 25, 2019

The American Immigration Council (AIC) recently received the results of its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), which concerned the federal government’s comprehensive plan to reduce the staggering immigration court case backlog. The AIC’s analysis of the government plan, unfortunately, has led it to conclude that rather than increasing the efficiency of the immigration court system, the plan is to fundamentally alter the immigration system.

Pointing to the policies that the Trump administration already has put into place to drastically speed up deportations, the AIC claims that much of the comprehensive plan is designed to achieve the same goal. Some of the examples of the government’s focus on hastening the deportation process include the imposition of annual caseload quotas on immigration judges and the placement of limits on the ability of judges to continue and administratively close cases. The AIC also pointed to various opinions issued by former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and EOIR policy changes that further limit the independence of immigration judges, as well as directives that curb the ability of individuals to seek continuances in order to retain legal counsel.

Federal Government’s Plan for Reducing Immigration Court Backlog

The AIC further pointed out that the federal government partially redacted the version of the plan that it received, even though it is a final agency document signed by the Deputy Attorney General. As these documents normally would be public, the AIC found it curious that the Trump administration would redact any portion of the plan. Whatever your situation may be, you will need skilled legal assistance to work toward a resolution of your immigration law matter. The Texas immigration attorneys of Peek & Toland know how to help you navigate through the maze of immigration forms, regulations, and policies, and get the relief that you need. Take the first step today and secure the future of your family in the U.S. Contact our office today at and set up an evaluation with one of our highly skilled Texas immigration lawyers.

Posted in Immigration Reform

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Immense Backlog Overwhelming Immigration Courts in Texas

By Peek & Toland on March 14, 2019

According to a Houston Public Media report, there is a historic number of pending immigration cases in Texas immigration courts, as well as in most courts nationwide. Texas courts have a backlog of 119,000 cases, a number that has grown by 30,000 cases since September 2018. Over the last two years, the number of pending cases nationwide has grown by almost 50%.

Some attribute the steadily increasing backlog of cases to the Trump administration’s many policy changes, including removing the authority of immigration judges to administratively close cases. The focus on deporting all illegal immigrants, as opposed to just those with criminal records, also has increased the number of deportation cases substantially. Many court dockets have been reshuffled and reallocated, which hasn’t helped the situation.

Immense Backlog Overwhelming Immigration Courts in Texas

As a result, immigrants are spending longer times in detention, as it now takes 173 days, on average, to resolve a pending immigration case. In some courts, court dates have been scheduled out to 2022. Houston immigration courts, alone, now have an increased backlog of more than 53,000 cases.
The backlogs of immigration cases only increased during the historically long partial government shutdown. The courts had no choice during that time period to push off hearings, some for months or years. During the shutdown, the immigration courts handled only the cases of detained immigrants; non-detained immigrants saw their cases put on hold indefinitely. Once the shutdown ended, the courts began the tedious process of rescheduling all of hearings.

The immigration lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the legal representation of countless individuals facing various immigration-related issues. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf in order to get the best outcome possible in your case. Call our office today at (512) 474-4445 to set up an appointment with our immigration attorneys today.

Posted in Immigration

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How America’s Busy Immigration Courts Would Swell Under Trump

By Peek & Toland on April 26, 2017

The nation’s immigration courts already face massive backlogs for deportation hearings. The pressures are predicted to grow further under the pro-deportation presidency of Donald Trump.

An article on 89.3 KPCC stated the burdens on the courts may grow exponentially over the next few months.

The station said America’s immigration courts were burdened by a backlog of half a million cases before Trump’s inauguration. The pressures in 2016 were unprecedented.

Cases being put on the calendar years from their initial hearing. More than 526,000 cases were stuck in the system stated the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. California alone has 100,000 cases with wait times of 2-4 years.

Immigration courts face a massive backlog

Immigration courts face a massive backlog

Last year, we noted Texas has one of the largest immigration case backlogs in the country.

Immigration courts have a backlog of 89,000 cases in the Lone Star State. In Houston alone, the number of cases held up in the courts rose from 6,423 to 36,136 from 2010 to 2016, according to the report.

The backlogs reflect an increased emphasis on deportations that took place under Barack Obama’s presidency. Trump has vowed to increase the size of the deportation force by employing an extra 5,000 Border Patrol agents and 10,000 immigration officers.

Jennifer Chacón, a law professor at the University of California, warned the crisis was likely to hit in 2017. She said:

“This is the year that the crisis really came to a head. We’ve had growing backlogs, but people are getting their cases calendered for years from now.”

Reports also point out there are too few judges to cope with the demands facing the immigration courts.

We noted there are just six immigration judges on the bench in Houston. The immigration court’s caseload is predicted to double by 2019 without more judges being taken on.

Funding for the immigration courts has continuously lagged behind that of federal enforcement, according to the Houston Chronicle. The publication states the courts are still struggling with the mass migration from Central America to the United States in 2014 when many unaccompanied children flooded over the border.

The pressure on immigration courts has made legal proceedings involving undocumented immigrants increasingly stressful and fragmented families. Our Texas family immigration lawyers can help with your case. Call us today at (512) 474-4445.

Posted in Immigration, Immigration Reform

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