Agency recommends changes to DHS to ease backlog on immigration courts

Government officials have adopted a series of recommendations to streamline federal immigration courts, where a record-high number of backlogged cases has brought the “fairness and effectiveness” of the courts into question, reported the Boston Herald.

Changes proposed by the Administrative Conference of the United States are aimed at easing the more than 300,000 pending cases in the courts, where it can take an average of 519 days from introduction to a judge’s decision.

The conference is an independent federal agency that provides nonpartisan legal advice and expertise to government agencies, and has  worked with the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security for more than a year, looking for ways to make immigration courts more “timely, efficient and fair.”

The 37 recommendations were vetted by a selection of federal officials, administrative law experts and private-sector individuals at an ACUS meeting this month. After they are published in the Federal Register, the conference will work with the affected agencies to implement them, according to attorney Funmi Olorunnipa.

Most of the proposals were aimed at Justice’s Executive Office of Immigration Review, which was created in 1983 to decide whether foreign-born individuals charged with violating immigration law, should be removed from the U.S. or permitted to stay here.

Olorunnipa said that 85 percent of the people who appear before immigration judges do not have an attorney. Many cannot afford to pay for a lawyer or have trouble understanding the procedures because of a language barrier, she said.

One major issue is a shortage of judges – one of six positions was vacant in March 2011, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.

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About tanialara

Tania Lara has a vast experience working as a journalist in Mexico and the U.S. reporting in-depth about the economic contributions and realities of Mexican immigrants. This summer, she will be covering border issues and elections for the 21st Century Border Initiative blog. Her stories about complex cross border matters have been published in Spanish-language media outlets including CNN México, Expansión, and ¡Ahora Sí!, as well as the English-language newspaper The Austin American-Statesman.
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