The overcrowding that occurs in U.S. immigration courts has long worried immigration advocates as well as government officials. There is simply a much larger demand for judges now than ever before and the system is overcrowded. Because of this, lawyers are calling their schedules “the rocket docket” as they warn their clients that their futures may be decided in the course of a few minutes.
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Judge Lawrence Burman describes his everyday experience to the Washington Post where he has 26 cases waiting to be heard just for the morning. There are three interpreters in the courtroom talking to lawyers and individuals as their families try to squeeze through the door where there is no room to sit down.
When President Obama promised immigration reform, this meant an increase in turnover at all immigration courts. This means that 11.7 million undocumented immigrants will have to come through the court system with at least 50,000 more trying to enter the country monthly. About 1,000 people are deported daily, where these cases tend to be even more urgent and need time for judges to determine whether or not someone can stay.
As Burman tries to decipher the details of each individual case as fast as he can it seems as though every person is not getting the proper adversarial treatment promised. In fact, these important and life changing cases are being conducted in a method similar to traffic court.
Not only is this incredibly stressful for the judges, lawyers and interpreters, but for the immigrants coming to the court. They usually do not speak English, many are unrepresented, and they have been detained for an unknown period of time as their family members wait to hear from them. Immigration reform may be what Americans and immigrants are waiting for, but with the current system already backlogged, it seems unfathomable that these Judge’s dockets of over 1,500 cases a week could more than double.
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