Immigration judges dis­patched to re­gion

Imperial Valley Press - - FRONT PAGE - BY WIL­LIAM ROLLER Staff Writer

In an at­tempt to over­come a back­log of cases of de­por­ta­tion hear­ings the U.S. Depart­ment of Jus­tice has re­as­signed immigration judges from around the coun­try Fri­day, to 12 cities to speed up de­por­ta­tions, ac­cord­ing to Reuters News Agency.

Among those cities will be Im­pe­rial. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion su­per­vi­sory of­fi­cer John Cam­pos de­clined to com­ment on the ac­tion, not­ing that he was un­cer­tain which gov­ern­ment agency where the or­der orig­i­nated. The judges’ reshuf­fling was re­quested by the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity yet immigration courts are ad­min­is­tered by the DOJ. Lau­ren Mack, su­per­vi­sory de­por­ta­tion of­fi­cer at Immigration and Cus­tom En­force­ment re­marked she was aware of the judges re­as­sign­ment but also de­clined to com­ment, main­tain­ing only a spokesman from the DOJ in Washington, D.C., was qual­i­fied to speak.

Yet Kelly Smith, an El Cen­tro immigration at­tor­ney, and a board mem­ber of the Na­tional Jus­tice for Our Neigh­bors, a United Methodist min­istry that pro­vides le­gal ser­vices/ for im­mi­grants, noted part of the prob­lem is that the last of two immigration judges in Im­pe­rial County re­tired sev­eral years ago and their va­can­cies were never filled.

There are now 300 immigration judges na­tion­ally with 74 va­can­cies and about 50 be­ing in­ter­viewed to fill slots. But even those 50 will have to be vet­ted and that process could take a year. “This ac­tion is an at­tempt of the Trump Ad­min­is­tra­tion to deal with that back­log,” said Smith. “My ques­tion is what is it do­ing for the back­log?”

Smith went on, that in her opin­ion the re­as­signed judges is a show of get­ting some­thing done by the Trump Ad­min­is­tra­tion, with un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants who may be charged with a crime but not con­victed. “Un­der immigration law it’s still pos­si­ble to not be con­victed of a crime but still be de­portable,” she said. “But just be­cause an in­di­vid­ual goes be­fore an immigration judge doesn’t mean they’ll be de­ported, even if they have a con­vic­tion.”

There are a num­ber of dif­fer­ent types of re­leases where the un­doc­u­mented with crim­i­nal charges or con­vic­tions may ob­tain re­lease, noted Smith. There is a le­gal ar­gu­ment that a par­tic­u­lar crime is not a de­portable of­fense and will not ap­ply.

There is also what is called, Can­cel­la­tion of Re­moval, where an of­fender can ap­ply one time and once only, to avoid de­por­ta­tion, Smith explained. But it is purely dis­cre­tionary. The judge could de­cide whether a per­son is wor­thy of Can­ce­la­tion of Re­moval. There nu­mer­ous types of re­lease within immigration courts, but it is rarely granted for se­ri­ous crimes.

At the end of Jan­uary there was a back­log of 542,646 cases that in­cluded 20,856 peo­ple who were held in de­ten­tion cen­ters, noted the As­so­ci­ated Press. Dana Marks, pres­i­dent of the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Immigration judges re­marked, that tem­po­rary as­sign­ments are ex­pen­sive and will result in de­lays else­where in the coun­try.

But In Jan­uary, Pres­i­dent Trump is­sued an ex­ec­u­tive or­der that un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants with crim­i­nal cases are a pri­or­ity for de­por­ta­tion even if they have yet to be found guilty. This is a de­par­ture from the prior Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion that pri­or­i­tized de­por­ta­tions of only those con­victed of se­ri­ous crime, noted Reuters.

“The big­ger pic­ture is why do this in­stead of mar­shal­ing the re­sources and mo­men­tum (Repub­li­can Congress and pres­i­dent) and solve com­pre­hen­sive immigration re­form,” said Smith.

Part of that pack­age could in­clude a guest worker pro­gram and im­ple­ment an extended Dream Act. This was the pro­gram that al­lows young chil­dren un­der a cer­tain age brought to the U.S. by un­doc­u­mented par­ents to re­main here. Also re­tain Obama’s DACA ex­ec­u­tive or­der that al­lows the un­doc­u­mented to re­main for two years with­out pros­e­cu­tion and is­sues an em­ploy­ment au­tho­riza­tion card.

“Immigration law is very com­plex,” said Smith. “Un­doc­u­mented par­ents who be­come cit­i­zens yet ne­glect to change the sta­tus of their chil­dren will not be a child’s path­way to a green card and still leaves him vul­ner­a­ble to de­por­ta­tion. I think the judges’ re­as­sign­ment is a very sim­plis­tic so­lu­tion to a very com­plex prob­lem, which means it is not a so­lu­tion at all.”

Ron Grif­fen, First United Methodist Church min­is­ter and pres­i­dent of the lo­cal chap­ter of JFON, stressed they will con­tinue to of­fer a min­istry of hos­pi­tal­ity to the un­doc­u­mented along with ad­vo­cacy and le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tion. “We can’t guar­an­tee any in­di­vid­ual a le­gal ba­sis to re­main,” he said. “We’re not try­ing to help peo­ple break the law. We are try­ing to help peo­ple legally nav­i­gate the sys­tem.”

ARISTIDE ECONOMOPOULOS/NJ AD­VANCE ME­DIA VIA AP

Pro­tes­tors chant in Ter­mi­nal B at the Ne­wark In­ter­na­tional Air­port prior to ad­dress­ing the me­dia Thurs­day in Ne­wark, NJ. A di­verse group of ad­vo­cates and im­mi­grant New Jerseyans gath­ered to con­demn Trump’s up­dated travel ban.

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