When an Atlanta immigration court judge recently heard the asylum case of a Chinese national, he asked the man if he spoke English
When the man said, “No,” the judge said, “sounds like English to me,” and laughed.
Although an interpreter was eventually provided, most of the exchanges between the man’s lawyer, the judge and the immigration attorney were not interpreted, and the man could not understand what was happening in his case.
The episode was an example of many “serious deficiencies” that the SPLC detailed in a letter today to the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), the division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) that oversees the nation’s immigration courts. The letter describes several due process violations in the way immigration hearings were recently conducted at the Atlanta Immigration Courts, and it calls for the removal of one judge from the bench.
“Immigration judges are supposed to be unbiased, neutral fact finders, but our findings show that judges in the Atlanta Immigration Court seek to intimidate those who appear before them, block their access to fair representation, and prevent those who do not speak English from understanding what is happening in their cases,” said Daniel Werner, senior supervising attorney for the SPLC. “The people who appear before this court deserve a fair hearing, but the judges’ behavior demonstrates no commitment to giving them one. These judges not only mock the immigrants who come before them, they also make a mockery of the legal system.”
The letter comes more than a year and a half after the SPLC first notified the agency about immigration judges who violate the constitutional rights of detainees. Since then, the SPLC has written three more letters detailing abuses of detainees’ rights in court.
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