Associated Press: American Immigration Courts are Overburdened—“Red Tape Gone Crazy”

On January 16th, 2020, the Associated Press published an important story on the growing burdens and logistical hurdles that are being faced in American immigration courts across the country. As part of its reporting, the Associated Press followed immigration lawyers in 11 different cities throughout the United States, including in Illinois, Indiana, and Minnesota. What they found was alarming: Immigrants being issued inaccurate Notices to Appear in court, seemingly endless lines, and a system stressed by unclear and ever-shifting Trump Administration mandates.   

An Overburdened Immigration System in Need of Reform

It is no secret that our immigration courts are stressed. Indeed, California has the largest immigration court backlog in the entire country—with more than 140,000 cases pending. The Associated Press (AP) story sheds new light on just how difficult navigating the legal system can be for immigrants, especially those who lack professional legal guidance. In its reporting the AP found: 

  • Inefficient proceedings;
  • Considerable confusion, including amongst court officials;
  • Multi-year long gaps between court dates;
  • Files being misplaced or outright lost; 
  • A lack of sufficient interpreters; and
  • Not enough assistance for immigrants who need help filling out important documents. 

In some cases, immigrants have received notices to appear in court on dates when the court is not in session. Shockingly, some immigration courts are still struggling to recover from the government shutdown of 2019, nearly an entire year later. 

Another major problem is that many asylum seekers who reach the United States’ southern border are not given access to their paperwork. Alarmingly, some migrants are forced to file costly Freedom of Information requests simply to get access to their file. 

Many Low Income Migrants Lack Professional Legal Representation

If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you—at least that is what you will always hear on television. Unfortunately, it does not work that way in American immigration courts. Many immigrants lack access to legal representation. As cited in the AP report, 63 percent of immigrants in removal proceedings were not represented by an attorney. This matters. Researchers have found that immigrants are three times more likely to avoid deportation if they have an attorney. 

While the AP’s findings were alarming, there was some good news cited in the report. They told the story of an attorney named Aneesha Gandhi, who agreed to take on a difficult case and represent an asylum seeker from Ecuador. Her client fled to the United States after facing discrimination and violence for being openly gay. She succeeded: Her client was granted asylum.

Do You Have Questions About Immigration Law? We Can Help

At the Goldstein Immigration Lawyers, we are proud to offer reliable, client-focused immigration law representation. If you have questions or concerns about your rights and your options, we are ready to help. For a confidential consultation, please call us today. We represent immigrants in Los Angeles and throughout Southern California, including in Rosemead, Huntington Park, Paramount, Norwalk, Buena Park, and Lakewood.