The number of pending cases in federal immigration courts is at an all-time high, and those cases are remaining open for longer, according to new data that underscores the backlog facing the nation's immigration system.
There were 275,316 cases awaiting resolution before the immigration courts as of May 4, setting a new record after an increase of 2.8 percent in four months. The information comes from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, which compiles the information regularly from public records. The clearinghouse released its latest report on June 7.
According to the data, the cases have been pending an average of 482 days, up from 467 days four months ago.
The report noted that the increases came despite the hiring of 44 immigration judges during the previous 12 months and the opening of a new immigration court in Pearsall, Texas.
Melissa Crow, director of the American Immigration Council's Legal Action Center, says the backlog is due to two factors: the need for yet more judges and staff at the U.S. Department of Justice, which administers the courts through its Executive Office for Immigration Review, and the decision by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to pursue more cases.
"It means that cases take forever to finish. It means, where clients do have cases where there's relief, it may take a long time for them to get the relief that they deserve," Crow says.
Crow's group and other advocates for immigrants are pushing the Obama administration to be more selective about the people targeted for deportation proceedings, while other critics of the administration, including conservative members of Congress, accuse the administration of being improperly selective in the enforcement of removal orders.Read more...
Beginning in the mid-1990s, the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) began using video hearing equipment in immigration courts across the country. As a result, frequently a noncitizen facing removal is deprived of the opportunity to appear in person before an immigration judge. Video hearings are more common where a noncitizen is detained, though many non-detained individuals are subjected to video hearings as well. EOIR uses video hearings for both preliminary hearings (“master calendar hearings”) and merits hearings (“individual hearings”).
In February 2012, the American Immigration Council submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to EOIR asking for records related to video teleconferencing (VTC). EOIR produced two sets of records.
The Exchange Visitor Program is pleased to announce John Patrick Leyba as April’s Exchange Visitor of the Month. Each month, we select an exchange visitor who has made an effort to get involved in his/her community and explore American Culture. Read more...
The implementation of a case by case review of at least 300,000 deportation proceedings, announced by the Department of Homeland Security last week, has left room for questions among immigrant advocate groups.
With this announcement, Homeland Security said it will implement prosecutorial discretion measures laid out in a June 2011 memo issued by John Morton, director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (aka ICE).
Melissa Crowe, director of the Legal Action Center at the American Immigration Council, said on a conference call Monday, ”We are not sure how” Homeland Security’s commitment “will play out in practice” and what recourse individuals will have “if they believe their cases have been mischaracterized as high priority.”
Crowe added that in an ideal world, Homeland Security “officers throughout the country would stop issuing charging documents on low priority cases so they never enter the system to begin with.”
Mohammad Abdollahi of DREAM Activist writes in an email that “the decision from [Homeland Security] and Obama was nothing new, it pretty much just spelled out what they already had on the books.”
Last week’s announcement, based on the June 2011 memo issued by Morton, lays out a path to implement immigration law enforcement priorities put forward in a 2010 memo also issued by Morton that prioritized the detention and deportation of three groups: “aliens who pose a danger to national security or a risk to public safety,” “recent illegal entrants” and “aliens who are fugitives or otherwise obstruct immigration controls.”Read more...
Chaidez v. United States, 568 U.S. ___, 133 S. Ct. 1103 (2013)
In a 7-2 decision written by Justice Kagan, the Court held that Padilla v. Kentucky, 559 U.S. 356 (2010), does not apply retroactively to collateral review of convictions final at the time of that decision. Padilla found that a noncitizen could raise a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel under the Sixth Amendment if his criminal defense attorney failed to advise him of the immigration consequences of a guilty plea. In Chaidez, the Court found that its previous decision went beyond applying the existing standards for ineffective assistance of counsel claims in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). Because the preliminary question answered by the Padilla Court – whether the Sixth Amendment right to counsel encompassed advice about collateral consequences of convictions – was not settled at the time of its decision in 2010, it held that Padilla created a new rule of criminal procedure and thus did not apply in collateral challenges to past convictions under the principles set forth in Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288 (1989).
The case left many issues and arguments unresolved.
New final rules became effective Sept. 9, 2010 for J trainee and intern programs 22 C.F.R.§ 62 (2010). With few exceptions, the final rule will produce little change to the way J trainee and intern programs have been administered since the interim-final rule of 2007.
South Florida immigrant advocates will be at the Broward Transistional Center today to take part in a national day of action to protest the deportation of Shamir Ali.
ICE recently announced that it had deported 396,000 people during fiscal year 2011. The agency’s own numbers indicate that, “of these, nearly 55 percent or 216,698 of the people removed were convicted of felonies or misdemeanors” and “this includes 1,119 aliens convicted of homicide; 5,848 aliens convicted of sexual offenses; 44,653 aliens convicted of drug related crimes; and 35,927 aliens convicted of driving under the influence.”
However the Immigration Policy Center argues that, “while the raw number is not in doubt, its meaning is far from clear,” adding that, according to ICE, 55 percent of those deported (approximately 218,000) were “criminal aliens,” but the definition of ‘criminal’ is overly broad.”
The Policy Center adds that ICE numbers show that “40% of criminal deportations were convicted under the four categories of homicide, sexual offenses, drug-related offenses, or driving under the influence (DUI). The other 60% of ‘convicted criminals’ fall into other categories including immigration crimes and traffic crimes.”
According to the Policy Center, “the real dilemma” for the Department of Homeland Security “is how it plans to reconcile its criminal deportation statistics with its new initiatives on prosecutorial discretion.”
A few days ago I wrote a blog about life along the border since 9/11, calling it a “Constitution-free zone”—a term coined by the ACLU. Life in the “Zone”—defined as a 100-mile wide area that wraps around the external boundary of the United States—is like living in an occupied zone, border residents tell me. Where the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects Americans from arbitrary stops and searches, doesn’t always apply.
Unfortunately, the voices of residents living along the international borders seldom penetrate the Washington echo chamber. Today, in Detroit, more than 100 delegates from the northern and southern borders are meeting to “form a national picture of what’s happening along the border,” according to Ryan Bates, an organizer for the newly formed Northern Border Coalition. The goal of the two-day conference, which began February 23, is to hammer out a political strategy so that border residents can lobby Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to rein in U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents whom they say are out of control.
As the number of Border Patrol agents has skyrocketed, so has the confusion about their role in border communities. Residents are unsure of their rights when border agents stop them. Lawyer Ben Winograd, a staff attorney with the American Immigration Council in Washington D.C. wanted to clarify in an email the notion of a “Constitution-free zone” I’d written about in my previous blog.Read more...