Video hearings for detained kids making the legal process slower
The Trump administration says it is trying to speed up legal proceedings for some of the record 13,000 migrant children in federal custody by using video hearings to stream testimony from detained youths into courtrooms, The Associated Press has learned.
The problem, some attorneys and judges say, is that technical glitches — including bad audio, weak connections and pixelated screens — are actually making it much harder for the teenagers in shelters to have a fair hearing. It can be challenging for judges to assess children’s credibility without eye-to-eye contact, they say. And it further obscures the cases, which legally are supposed to be public.
But the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which has custody of the teens, says its unannounced pilot program will save money and allows youths, some of whom are being housed at a cost of more than $775 a night, to appear before a judge more quickly.
The program for teens — piloted in conjunction with the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review — launched several weeks ago. Video teleconferencing already has been widely used in a variety of adult legal proceedings.
So far, about 30 youths have appeared via videoconferencing before immigration judges in Phoenix and Harlingen, Texas, said Lydia Holt, an ORR spokeswoman.
Similar hearings have been conducted in immigration courts in Miami and New York City, said Kathryn Mattingly, an EOIR spokeswoman.
The Associated Press learned that they also have been scheduled in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, El Paso, Seattle, Tucson and San Francisco.
This past summer, the optics of children in court became an embarrassment to the Trump administration, with critics seizing on the fact that the immigration system requires children — some still in diapers — to appear before judges for legal proceedings.