One of the absurd ironies of President Trump’s government shutdown, which is intended to extract money from Congress for a border wall, is that it has brought the nation’s immigration courts to a near-standstill. In his quest to erect a monument to his racist campaign rhetoric, Trump has crippled the system that processes the deportations of the very people he wants out of the U.S. Last month, immigration judges around the country received furlough notices. Clerks and other court staff have been working reduced hours or not at all. Hearings for people not currently in detention have been cancelled.
That’s not necessarily a relief to the defendants. Even before the shutdown began there was a backlog of hundreds of thousands of cases in the system. Many people have waited years for their day in court. Rescheduling a hearing now might mean a delay of several more years. Until then, their status will remain uncertain.
Mana Yegani is an immigration lawyer in Houston. Despite the furloughs, courts during the shutdown have been hearing immigration cases of people currently being held by the government. Among them was one of Yegani’s clients, who was due for a final hearing on Thursday. Last week, in preparation, Yegani sent documents to the judge who had been overseeing the case. But then she ran into shutdown problems. Her case had been transferred, but no one seemed to be able to tell her where. In her frustration, this weekend, she tweeted about the situation. “I wanted to create a record of it online,” she said. “I wanted to put it out there that I’m dealing with this mess.” She spoke by phone on Monday and explained the full story. She asked that the name of her client be kept out of the story, to avoid drawing negative attention to his case. This account has been edited and condensed.
By Eric Lach for THE NEW YORKER
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