Archives for May 2015

Another NBC I-Team Bombshell On Immigration Court Crisis

There must have been a memo. Another NBC station is breaking news on the immigration court crisis, with the New York affiliate reporting on a huge loophole for entering the U.S. The station’s in-depth coverage includes that “… according to court sources… [the source] is at least the 14th Amandeep Singh from the Punjab state of India to seek immigration help in Queens Family Court — a place better known for custody and child support cases. Singh tells a judge he was abused by his parents, starved and beaten with sticks. Although this may be completely true, judges say they have no investigative recourse. After one hour in court, Singh, who is undocumented and was smuggled across the border, was well on his way to getting a green card, permanent legal status and the right to work in the U.S.”

Read the story here.

TV News Report Includes Director’s Rare Comments Demanding Change

A California NBC TV affiliate has scored a rare interview with the director of the nation’s immigration system, and he’s not holding back in blaming lawmakers for what amounts to a broken system. Bay Area NBC says that “… in his first ever TV interview on camera, the Director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) tells NBC Bay Area that only a complete overhaul by Congress will truly fix the issues plaguing the current system.”

 

“There’s no question that the system, the immigration court system, is under incredible stress right now,” Director Juan Osuna told the NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit, which conducted the interview in Washington, D.C. The multi-part report says that “… according to EOIR’s latest figures, US Immigration Courts received 306,045 cases in 2014 alone. Many of those cases were never heard, adding to a backlog which now totals 445,607 according to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, or TRAC.”

 

The comments are rare, both because of what NBC called “tradition” and also because the immigration system, including the judicial branch, are not “courts” at all but really are a function of the Department of Justice.

 

See the milestone story here.

Texas Truancy Another Civil v. Criminal Issue

 How to deal with kids missing school is usually a civil issue, but not in Texas. As part of a series, Jyoti Thottam of Al Jazeera is reporting that “Texas is one of only two states in the United States that prosecutes truancy as an adult criminal offense — Wyoming is the other — and the volume of cases is staggering: In 2013, Texas had more than twice as many truancy cases as the other 49 states combined. Truancy is also the number one reason children in Texas encounter the criminal justice system. In 2013, more than 67,000 juveniles were referred to juvenile court for crimes other than truancy, ranging from homicide and theft to drug offenses and disorderly conduct. That number was 42 percent fewer than the cases of truancy.”

 

One reason might be the money. Thottam reports that “… failure to attend school has also become a revenue stream for Texas. In fiscal year 2014, the state assessed fines and court costs of $16.1 million for truancy convictions, even though 79.4 percent of cases that year involved economically disadvantaged students, according to an analysis by the Austin-based social and economic justice advocacy group Texas Appleseed.” There all calls to make the issue a civil offense. Read more.

Immigration Court Backlog Nearly A Half-Million Cases

The latest update from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, the group most-cited for keeping track of the immigration courts backlog, sets the number of pending cases at a new all-time high of 445,000, with “routine” hearings being delayed for up to four years.

The Los Angels Times is among those taking notice, saying that the rising caseload “… is a nearly 30% increase since Oct. 1, 2013, the start of the last fiscal year” and “… immigration courts have been overwhelmed since the influx last fiscal year of more than 68,500 unaccompanied children and about as many family units crossing the southern border, most from Central America.”

They also noted a changing trend, because “… most backlogged cases involved Mexican immigrants, their backlog has increased only about 4% since the start of last fiscal year, while the backlog has skyrocketed for Central Americans — up 63% for Guatemalans, 92% for Salvadorans and 143% for Hondurans.”

Federal data indicates that California, Texas, and New York led the nation with the largest immigration backlogs, followed by Florida and New Jersey.

The nation’s “immigration courts” are actually a division of the Justice Department, not really federal courts at all. The system report that it has 233 judges in 58 courts nationwide and officials say 17 more are expected to start by month’s end with 68 more are in the process of being hired. But Judge Dana Leigh Marks, who’s been on the bench for 28 years and is president of the National Assn. of Immigration Judges, told the L.A. Times that some 100 immigration judges were expected to retire this year.

Fla. Chief Justice Becomes Voice For ‘Civil Gideon’

Jorge Labarga, the Florida Supreme Court chief justice, has become an outspoken advocate of “Civil Gideon,” the idea that certain civil court issues should require the same access to legal representation we have in criminal courts. He’s been making the rounds in the Sunshine State discussing his views and which cases seem to demand better legal access.

He shared a personal story with a Daytona newspaper, saying that “… I was a trial judge for 13 years. It was always painful to see the banker’s lawyers, prepared and professional, on one side, and the judge looks on the other side and there’s a husband and wife, holding a little file with two or three pages of paper in their hand, wondering what to do next… I used to come home at night with my stomach in knots. I couldn’t help them. It was very frustrating.”

The newspaper pointed out that “… last November, Labarga did something to help them by signing an order setting up the Florida Commission on Access to Civil Justice. Members include state Cabinet members, legislative leaders, bar officials and industry executives. It’s charged with finding ways to improve access to civil courts.”

Read more about his efforts here.