Unaccompanied immigrant minors caught at the US border are being rushed before immigration judges under a new federal policy. This has resulted in criticism from lawyers, who say that many immigrants have had less than two days to put in an appearance in court in states that are far away from their current residence.
With a mass influx of undocumented immigrants descending on the United States from Central America, immigration courts have started to realign their overloaded dockets to make sure that unaccompanied immigrant minors get their initial hearing in front of a judge within three weeks of a deportation case being filed against them by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. Immigrants previously had to wait months or even more than a year before they got their first hearing with a judge to review the charges against them and to make a case as to why they should be allowed to remain in the country.
Officials say that the new shorter timeline, which the Executive Office for Immigration Review enacted on Friday and also applies to adults with children caught at the border, will increase the speed in which many cases are resolved, while also sending a clear message that the US is intent on enforcing its immigration laws.
Immigrant advocates, however, say that the immigrants no longer have a fair chance to get a lawyer and construct a successful case because of the shortened time frame. “It is not enough time to prepare a whole case,” notes Vera Weisz, an attorney in Los Angeles. “In the name of expediency, you’re denying people due process.”