Gov. Brown Calls Child-Immigration Crisis A ‘Tragedy,’ Critic Says Comments Are ‘Empty’

California Gov. Jerry Brown, who has said the Golden State could be a “leader” on national immigration policy even though the issues involved are usually federally controlled, has called the border-crossing crisis involving unaccompanied children a “crisis,” but stopped well short of commenting on what the state might do about the situation, according to a Fresno Bee newspaper report. The Bee also reports that Brown “…accused critics of exploiting the situation for political gain.”

The Bee also reported that the governor’s state Office of Emergency Services “… said earlier this week that the administration has been coordinating with federal and local law enforcement officials, including providing assistance with crowd and traffic control. Brown said Friday that California is a destination for immigrants because they think the state is ‘great.’”

“By the way, they may come in through Texas because they have so many holes in the border down there, but they usually want to get over to California as fast as they can because stuff is happening here,” Brown said. He added, “I’m not saying I’m encouraging that. I’m not.”

Meanwhile, Neel Kashkari, the Republican conducting what’s largely seen as a longshot campaign to unseat Brown in the November election, called the governor’s comments “empty.”

Read more here.

Immigration Court Crisis Has Been Brewing

Civil courts operating the United States immigration system have been operating with long delays for years, and eventually you can expect the ongoing story of “unaccompanied border children” will linger on effects of the government funding cuts from “sequester.”

Those cutbacks made news last year, with the Associated Press reporting in October of 2013 that “… meanwhile, the vast majority of immigration courts have been closed, according to a notice posted on the immigration courts’ website. Hearings are still taking place, however, for immigrants being held in detention. That means most immigrants fighting deportation or seeking asylum in the courts are not getting their cases heard. Many have already waited months or years for a court date in a system besieged with backlogs.

Advocates say they may now have to wait much longer.”

The AP quoted Gregory Chen, director of advocacy for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, saying that “… if you had your case set for today and you can’t appear because the court is not open, you could likely have your continuance set out a year or more. It’s not just show up next Tuesday. It’s show up in 2014 or 2015.”

Published reports say that wait has, in some cases, expanded to from three to five years.

ACLU Leader Outlines Immigration Lawsuit Argument

As reported by NPR: Detainees sleep and watch television in a holding cell where hundreds of mostly Central American immigrant children are being processed at a U.S. Customs facility in Nogales, Texas.

As reported by NPR: Detainees sleep and watch television in a holding cell where hundreds of mostly Central American immigrant children are being processed at a U.S. Customs facility in Nogales, Texas.

With armed “citizen groups” starting to patrol the U.S.-Mexico border and angry crowds protesting the arrival of children into their communities, the ongoing “unaccompanied children immigration” crisis is growing worse. Clearly, this is a tragic worst-case example of what happens with “rationing justice” in our civil courts, and California has the biggest caseload backup with tens of thousands of kids awaiting a day in court.

In a major Los Angeles Times opinion piece, the director of the ACLU of Southern California outlines theories behind this week’s lawsuit against the U.S. Government, filed by his group and other civil rights groups. Among other issues, the groups argue for legal representation, saying that

“… the appointment of counsel is the only way to ensure that children with potentially valid claims can present the necessary arguments and proof. Given the complexities of immigration law and the language and cultural barriers immigrants face, it should surprise no one that attorneys matter in immigration proceedings. A 2012 study of New York immigration courts showed that immigrants who proceed without representation are five times more likely to lose their cases than those who have counsel.”

The ACLU director also argues that, while we may use the term “immigration,” these children are more accurately classified as refugees fleeing for their lives. These are the emerging talking points on the escalating crisis, and you can find them here: Kids caught at the border deserve due process, including lawyers

Non-Representation Of Immigration Children Sheds Light On System

As reported by the LA Times: Karla Salazar, right, and Ellen Leonard on Tuesday joined nearly 100 demonstrators at the naval base in Port Hueneme, where hundreds of immigrant children are being housed. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

As reported by the LA Times: Karla Salazar, right, and Ellen Leonard on Tuesday joined nearly 100 demonstrators at the naval base in Port Hueneme, where hundreds of immigrant children are being housed. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

In a country where citizens are only vaguely aware that immigration is mostly controlled by civil, not criminal, courts, the ongoing “unaccompanied children” crisis is serving to shed some light on how the civil courts work – or, more exactly, how they sometimes don’t work. Now a coalition of immigration groups has filed a federal lawsuit against the United States over non-representation of these children, The Los Angeles Times is reporting.

The Times reports that “… the immigrant advocacy groups that filed suit are targeting ongoing actions in which immigration officials have initiated proceedings to deport thousands of minors, both recent arrivals as well as those who have lived for years in the United States but without permission. Many of the children never hire attorneys, appearing in court by themselves. Because immigration cases are civil, not criminal proceedings, defendants are not guaranteed the right to legal counsel.”
The immigration groups make the same basic argument that other juvenile advocates make, “… attorneys argue that children are not equipped to represent themselves in serious cases that can determine their future, lacking the intellectual and emotional capacity of adults as well as knowledge of legal remedies that may be available to them.”

Meanwhile, federal authorities say that some of the 243 immigration judges in 59 courts nationwide will be reassigned to hear the cases, either at the border or by video with some new judges appointed temporarily. Clearly, the issue is not going away – read some of the Times’ excellent coverage here.

Child-Immigration Crisis Also A Civil Court Crisis

With President Obama asking Congress for a quick $2 billion to address the growing crisis on the U.S.-Mexican border, it is worth noting that the system failure is not just about immigration policy or border enforcement – it’s really a failure of civil courts capacity. Many Americans learning about the crisis are surprised to discover that immigration issues are “civil” and not “criminal,” and that the core of the problem is that tens of thousands of children are due a day in court – and that day will not come for years and years.

As reported by NPR: Detainees sleep and watch television in a holding cell where hundreds of mostly Central American immigrant children are being processed at a U.S. Customs facility in Nogales, Texas.

As reported by NPR: Detainees sleep and watch television in a holding cell where hundreds of mostly Central American immigrant children are being processed at a U.S. Customs facility in Nogales, Texas.

Background: National Public Radio and others are drawing attention to the fact that, over the past nine months, “… more than 50,000 children and teenagers have crossed that border illegally on their own, most from Central America. By law, the administration can’t deport those young people until they have an immigration hearing — a process that can take years.” The immigration law is different for people from Mexico, who can be returned much faster.

Says NPR: “… law requires the U.S. to hold an immigration hearing before deporting a child from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador or any other country that doesn’t border the U.S., says Marc Rosenblum of the Migration Policy Institute. The law aims to protect vulnerable young people from being inadvertently sent home into forced labor or the sex trade.”

“While they wait for that immigration hearing, the law also requires that they be held in the least restrictive custody setting,” Rosenblum tells NPR. “What that means in practice is that most of these kids are getting placed with family members in the U.S. while they wait for an immigration hearing.”

Because the immigration courts are overloaded, the average wait is nearly two years, Rosenblum adds in the NPR coverage.That means what we’re seeing is really a high-profile example of what happens when civil courts can’t meet demands. There is very likely a similar situation in many of our family courts and other systems, and those will eventually bring their own “crisis” headlines.


Here’s the NPR report: Obama To Ask Congress For $2B To Ease Immigration Crisis