Trump’s New Rules Could Swamp Already Backlogged Immigration Courts

In San Antonio, an immigration judge breezes through more than 20 juvenile cases a day, warning those in the packed courtroom to show up at their next hearing — or risk deportation.

A Miami immigration lawyer wrestles with new federal rules that could wind up deporting clients who, just a few weeks ago, appeared eligible to stay.

Judges and attorneys in Los Angeles struggle with Mandarin translators and an ever-growing caseload.

Coast to coast, immigration judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys are straining to decipher how the federal immigration rules released in February by the Trump administration will impact the system — amid an already burgeoning backlog of existing cases.

The new guidelines, part of President Trump’s campaign promise to crack down on illegal immigration, give enforcement agents greater rein to deport immigrants without hearings and detain those who entered the country without permission.

But that ambitious policy shift faces a tough hurdle: an immigration court system already juggling more than a half-million cases and ill-equipped to take on thousands more.

“We’re at critical mass,” said Linda Brandmiller, a San Antonio immigration attorney who works with juveniles. “There isn’t an empty courtroom. We don’t have enough judges. You can say you’re going to prosecute more people, but from a practical perspective, how do you make that happen?”

By Rick Jervis, Alan Gomez and Gustavo Solis, for USA TODAY
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