Immigration courts to focus on deportation hearings

Immigration courts in the US are to change their focus, concentrating more on deportation hearings regarding undocumented immigrants who have already been imprisoned by the federal government. A memo, which was sent on Tuesday, by Chief Immigration Judge, Mary-Beth Keller, says that immigration judges should make the speedy scheduling of hearings for detained immigrants their top priority. This move could free up space in the already over capacity immigrant jail system.

Although imprisoned immigrants have long been a priority, under the Obama administration, judges were also told to focus on families and unaccompanied minors caught on the border between the US and Mexico, in a bid to offer a deterrence to others considering making the dangerous and illegal journey.

The move follows the announcement by President Donald Trump that he intends to increase immigration enforcement and see more undocumented immigrants jailed. Changing the courts will make it easier for the government to deport jailed immigrants quicker, making space in the detention system. In recent years, tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants have arrived on the US border. This has resulted in the immigration court docket reaching more than 533,000 cases. It has caused many immigrants to spend years waiting for a final court ruling.

Immigration lawyers say that it is too early to tell whether the move will see cases move faster, or if the current backlog will continue to grow.