ABA Calls US Immigration Courts Irredeemably Dysfunctional


A recent report from the ABA calls for a complete overhaul of the immigration court system. Under the ABA’s proposed reforms, Immigration Courts would become Article I courts, making them similar to bankruptcy court in that it would be independent of the Justice Department. This could give them what they need to restructure their services and provide a smoother, more efficient, and more just court.

The Justice Department is refusing to comment.

The ABA has no power to make new laws, but it can make strong recommendations which lawmakers may take into account. Sadly, many of these same recommendations were made in 2010, to no avail.

US Immigration Court is currently beset by a number of problems.

Low Funding

The US government has drastically increased funding for Immigration Law Enforcement, even as they’ve drastically cut funding for Immigration Courts.

This has led to a shortage of judges, which has, in turn, has led to many other problems including delays, backlogs, and unrealistic case loads. For example, some immigrants get as little as seven minutes to see their fate decided, one way or another.

The Washington Examiner says the backlog is up by 300%.

Funding isn’t the only factor. As immigration law enforcement gets more aggressive, the number of cases rises. And judges, well aware of the pressures and the absurdities of the system, are burning out in record numbers. Some news outlets report they’re burning out even faster than doctors and prison wardens.

Pro Se Defendants

Immigration courts are considered civil courts instead of criminal courts, even though ICE detains immigrants until their hearing and wants them deported when the hearing is done. This means there is no automatic right to counsel the way there would be in criminal court.

More than 80% are forced to go in without lawyers, which means they’re pitted against federal prosecutors and are held to the same standard as a fully trained lawyer. As one might imagine, this rarely ends well for the defendants. And as surreal as it is, some of these defendants are babies and toddlers.

If you know you have an upcoming case in Immigration Court one of the wisest things you can do is to get an immigration lawyer on your side so you don’t have to go up against a federal prosecutor alone.

If you or a family member is in trouble with immigration enforcement, call our office for help. We’re extremely experienced in deportation, separation, and detention cases. Hykel Law is ready to help.

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Although it often comes with controversy, immigration into the United States has always played a major role in the strength of its economy. Perhaps no one understands this more than the residents of Philadelphia, where the Liberty Bell still welcomes foreigners to one of the richest historical communities of our country.


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Not knowing or understanding the system and laws of the U.S. can be a disadvantage for many foreign immigrants who wish to obtain permanent residency in the United States, either for themselves or for their loved ones. Hykel Law’s Family-Based Immigration Services can lead you through the complicated process to achieve either temporary or permanent residency, depending on your situation.


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