04 December 2016

U.S. Immigration Courts Still Broken

ARLINGTON, Va. — Walk into the immigration court here, and scenes of a justice system in collapse abound. . . . The judge in Courtroom 2 had unsettling news for Edhite Pouken Shienji, a woman from Cameroon seeking asylum. After 14 years of delays, she was finally scheduled for a hearing. But at the last minute, the judge was reassigned to handle the cases of some migrants from Central America. Her hearing was postponed once again — to 2019. 
In Courtroom 8, there was a deportation hearing for Damián Martínez, from Mexico. The judge soon discovered he was a 4-month-old infant, dozing on the shoulder of his mother. Somehow the baby’s case had become separated in court records from hers. The bewildered mother, in court without a lawyer, had no clue how to fix the problem. The judge could only urge her to make sure that Damián “presents himself in all of his future hearings." . . . 
On a visit to the immigration court in Denver four years ago, cases were moving briskly, but judges were starting to worry because hearing delays were reaching 18 months. Now in Denver, the court with the longest wait times in the country, most cases drag on more than five years, the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a research group studying federal data, has found. In Arlington, by reputation one of the nation’s best-run courts, eight judges have more than 30,000 cases, with some scheduling hearings in 2022.
From the New York Times.

Political theory predicts that political institutions respond to voters, and that immigration law, because it mostly benefits people who can't vote, will usually be sorely neglected. This theory seems to be a pretty accurate one.

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