Obama’s Push for Mass Deportation of Children In 2016
On February 3, 2016, a little noticed internal memorandum was released by the Chief Judge of the Immigration Courts. It’s innocuous title, “Revised Docketing Practices Related to Certain EOIR Priority Cases” really meant that the President ordered all children or family unit cases to be scheduled for an asylum hearing before the end of 2016.
To be clear, “Priority Cases” mean mothers with children and unaccompanied children who entered the United States after January 1, 2014.
We experienced the reality first hand. Below is a transcript of a recent hearing before an immigration judge assigned to the priority docket in the New York Immigration Court.
Additionally, all of our clients’ asylum trials previously scheduled in 2017 or 2018 were sua sponte advanced to the year 2016 and sua sponte reassigned to be heard by new immigration judges.
President Obama is making his last stand: to deport as many children as possible before his time is up. He wants this to be his legacy.
To explain the background, the effect of the new accelerated docket will be to strike a blow to availability of both pro bono and private counsel to represent both families and unaccompanied children.
With such a short turnaround in asylum hearings, an overburdened legal support system will be unable to take on new cases, thereby cutting off supply of lawyers for tens of thousands of children.
Here is the excerpt from a hearing on February 18, 2016.
Judge: Now are you ready to schedule this matter for an individual hearing date?
Me: I am but I did hear that there’s that recent change in scheduling from prior to February for merits hearings…
Judge: Right, we were kind of doing everyone a disservice by having these cases out for that long…
Me: I respectfully disagree given… (judge cuts off)
Judge… Well, But, it doesn’t matter whether we are or we are not, this is where we are scheduling now that i can hear these cases, and I can schedule this for an individual hearing date as soon as possible.
Me: When are the dates available?
Judge: I have dates in March…do you still need time to get her documents from the home country?
Me: No, your honor, but that is not the issue with March or closer dates, it’s that I have already pre-existing merits hearings…
Judge: So, let’s work with what your schedule is, I mean counsel, you’ve been obviously aware that respondent has been seeking asylum since october, in october of 2014, so all of your actions up to this point should be getting her ready to have her hearing.
Me: “At that time, our schedule was significantly less compromised.
Me: To be frank, with the surge docket and all the individuals that have been scheduled lately, the closest time I would be available would be January of 2017 for a merits hearing.
Judge: “Well, counsel, I will take that into consideration, um, I have dates available as early as next month, in April, in May, I do take into consideration when attorneys need some time to get additional documents that they are waiting or documents from the home country…Um i can give you a date on June 8. I mean are you, counsel, if your hearing time is booked completely from now until January, here is a thought, co-counsel, or associates, your practice is expanding…
Me: I mean, that’s something we have been working on constantly.
Judge: I have a date, are you available on June 8, on June 15?
Me: In 2016, no your honor.
Judge: In June 15, 2016?
Me: “I mean…(10 second pause) There’s no dates in 2017 your honor?
Judge: “I’m not going out to 2017, I don’t need to, I have enough hearing time to put this respondent on my docket to hear her case.
Me: “The immigration court has significantly more resources. they were able to create this hearing time out of…”
Judge: “Sir, If you have issues with the court opening up available hearing time, you need to follow up with my court administrator, or the assistant chief immigration judge in new york, i have no say or comment on that. I do know that I have available hearing time and i am trying to schedule folks hearings as readily as i can in accordance with the particular needs of the respondents, not so much for the particular needs of counsel, I am taking into account that you may have conflict with a number of dates that I give you, but I cannot go out to 2017 to fit in your scheduling sir because you have taken on a number of additional cases and you represent a larger swath of Respondents and i am glad that you do but then you also have to have adequate coverage in your firm so you can meet the needs of Respondents. now you may continue.”
Me: I understand that, first of all, a lot of our pre-existing cases were scheduled years before the priority docket was started and in my experience since 2014 with the priority docket is the whole purpose behind it has been to cut down on due process and I am not talking about scheduling, but about how it affects my clients and my ability to dedicate sufficient time adequately vindicate the due process rights of my clients, and right now with this case, and to be frank all of the cases on the rocket docket that are being scheduled for individual hearings, I feel like they are being pushed through at a really fast speed so that we have less time to dedicate to our clients and it really, really prejudices them….
Judge: “Mr Johnson, i appreciate your thoughts, but the purpose of my master calendar is not to have a forum for you to express whatever opinions you have and i respect and understand your frustration and in a perfect world, all respondents would have their hearings within 6 months to a year, that actually is reasonable, many folks have family members who are at home and are at risk and who wish to have their hearings expedited rather than have asylum hearings delayed to 2019 and i think our court is doing our utmost to ensure that. Now I am going to offer you a couple of dates sir, and I am telling you, I am not stretching this case out to January of 2017, and I think sir as a practitioner, that you are taking on a number of hearings and respondents that you are representing and you also need to meet their needs and goals, so either you represent them and take on their hearing dates or if you are booked then you should take on or expand your practice, that is your personal consideration.
Judge: Are you available July 27 at 1 o’clock?
Me: Yes, your honor.