Dallas' Immigration Court Is Pushing Through Juvenile Migrant Cases Faster Than Ever

Categories: Immigration

USDeptHomeland.jpg
Gulbenk
The federal government is putting increasing pressure on immigration courts to get through cases as quickly as possible. But many are saying that with that rush comes a lack of due process.
Ixar, a slight, gangling teenager, nervously fidgeted in his chair as Judge Michael Baird stared him down. Babies' cries could be heard echoing through the halls, but it did not break the formal tension within the courtroom. Ixar's eyes flashed between the translator and Baird.

He had come a long way to get to this cramped courtroom in downtown Dallas' Earle Cabell Federal Building and Courthouse: On May 20, he entered the United States through the small town of Hidalgo. He had made his way there alone from El Salvador.

The court did not question how exactly he had gotten to the United States, or how long it took him to get there. We do know that his parents were both already here. Ixar says that for months before leaving El Salvador, he had been aggressively recruited by the local gangs, as so many boys there are. His father described how, after turning down membership, gangs had threatened to kill Ixar. So he fled.

See also: When Kids Go to Dallas' Immigration Court

Ixar's first appearance Dallas' immigration court was last week, when he asked for more time to get a lawyer. Prior to the recent political firestorm over Central American kids, Ixar would have been given weeks, even months, to find a lawyer and put together his case. But Baird ordered Ixar to return on Monday.

Immigration judges are under increasing pressure to move these cases through the system as quickly as possible, over the objection of lawyers and advocates who say finding a lawyer and preparing a claim for asylum or other relief takes more time than they're being given.

"They're setting these cases very quickly now," says Bill Holston, director of the Human Rights Initiative, which represents refugees seeking asylum in the United States. "We're really having to scramble."

After he was given a brief extension last week, Ixar's family scrambled to find a lawyer. But on such short notice, no one would take his case, his father said. Instead, Dad was left to navigate the complex world of U.S. immigration law to argue his son's case. After Ixar's story was shared, Baird determined he might have an asylum case. Ixar and his father were given applications for asylum, to be filled out -- in English -- and returned in three days.

But three days, Holston says, isn't enough time.

"It's a very complicated procedure. You have to check every box, and there's very little tolerance for mistakes," he says. "Even minor inconsistencies are used against the applicant, so if you're doing it in a hurry and you make a factual error on a date or address the court can hold that against you, and that can fatal to the case. If it's determined to be a frivolous application, the applicant can face a lifetime bar on US immigration benefits. Now that's a very harsh ruling."

When Ixar appears in court again, he will have been given less than two weeks in total to appeal his right to stay in the United States. And if his father, with his limited English, makes a single mistake on the asylum form, 16-year-old Ixar could face a lifetime ban on lawful immigration to the United States. Faced with those odds, it would be no small wonder -- and maybe even the wisest play -- if Ixar simply elected to slip under the immigration radar rather than return to the streets of El Salvador.

Holston says clients had previously been given around 60 days to find a lawyer and build a case. Now immigrants across the country are being shuttled through the court system within about three weeks.

That condensed timeline was obvious in the case of Josue, who also appeared in court on Monday. A boy of about 16 from Honduras, he entered the United States on April 14. His first appearance was in August. And by Monday, with his Dad unable to afford a lawyer or find a pro bono one, he was running out of time and options. "I would like my son to stay. We need more time," Dad said softly in Spanish, but Baird determined that Josue was not eligible to stay. Josue opted to voluntarily remove himself on December 9. His sojourn here will have lasted less than eight months, far less time than most asylum cases take.

Jordan, an 11-year-old boy from Honduras, may face the same fate. His mother, Jessica, had come to the United States to find work and had left Jordan in the care of her grandmother when he was 2 months old. After more than 10 years, it was evident that Jordan was severely neglected: With increasing local gang worries and an infirm caretaker, Jessica paid a smuggler $4,000 to bring him to the United States.

He crossed the border on May 28 and was immediately apprehended. couldn't afford a lawyer so Jessica appeared on his behalf. Given more time, Jessica might have been able to find a pro bono lawyer to take the case, or scrape together the money, or even better prepare herself. But that time no longer exists.

"This truly is about due process. Immigrants have fewer constitutional rights, but that doesn't mean they have none," Holston says. "The ones we're talking about have legal relief available, but they're not given the time to find a lawyer and argue the case. That's a due process argument. And these are difficult cases to develop. Some of these children have been through terrible things, and to compress that into a couple of weeks to develop the case, thats very hard."

Like Ixar, Jessica was given asylum forms to be completed within three days; they'll be back in court Thursday, presumably to learn what future awaits Jordan. Unlike Ixar's father, she seemed to understand it wasn't good, and she began to cry when she received the forms. Baird is a neutral and tough judge, but he has flashes of human kindness. At Jessica's tears, Baird softened and addressed Jordan.

"You take care of your mother, young man," he said. "She needs your help."


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29 comments
TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

"It's a very complicated procedure. You have to check every box, and there's very little tolerance for mistakes,"

Maybe that's intentional.

wcvemail
wcvemail

Bill Holston is a good-hearted man who is out of touch with reality. 

The reality isn't that these teenagers were airlifted off a mountain top as their kiillers approached, as in Iraq. Rather, the parents had months - at least - while they were saving money to begin filling out the necessary forms. Can't speak English? Why in the wide, wide world of sports didn't they find someone who does, in the many months and years they were planning this? 


If that's arrogance, then it shows what they think of our judicial system. If it's a calculated, staged desperation at the last minute, then this writer and Mr. Holston should buy a clue. If it's sheer stupidity, then I don't want anyone that stupid in this country anyway, since we already have Rusk, TX.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

So how old is young Ixtar?  How about some stats on all the children this immigration court is processing, Ms. Mathis?  Or is that a secret?  Or inconvenient truth?

And shazaam!  Seems like I've read that exact spiel.  I DID read that exact spiel!  Isn't that the same one you hoisted up last week?  Or did that come off the AP?

the one about the gangs we're gonna recruit me or kill me so I fled . . .

to my family who just happened to already be in country.  Man!  Sounds like the whole country is hauling ass.

What do you expect them to say?  

It's been in the news for at least a year the little ninos who need a shave must recite to the first border agent they see "I've been persecuted and fear for my life"

So why do I have to fill out these pesky forms?  In Engles?  And tell the truth?

friggin' Gringos.  I'm SICK of 'em.

If the Feds want to speed things up, maybe the Justice Department should ask the President why he whipped out his pen in the first place?

Is anyone going to mount the needed journalistic curiosity and actually ask the Administration what the point was by passing the Dream Act and suing Arizona?

We still haven't gotten a clear answer to what was the point of this?

ElGuapo
ElGuapo

"Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

One item that I don't quite understand from the story.  Is Ixar's father already in the US?  If so what is his immigration status?

James080
James080

@ElGuapo 

Those words are inscribed on the Statute of Liberty, located on Liberty Island, which is about 2000 yards from Ellis Island, where LEGAL immigrants were processed and welcomed into this country. LEGAL immigrants are still welcome into this country. All countries have borders and immigration laws. Why shouldn't the USA enforce its borders and immigration laws?

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@ElGuapo Which has absolutely nothing to do with this story, or illegal immigration in general.  That last line "I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" implies that she knows they are coming and is letting them in.  Quite one thing to knock and be admitted, another thing altogether to break in and claim the home as your own.

pak152
pak152

@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul 

" We do know that his parents were both already here. Ixar says that for months before leaving El Salvador, he had been aggressively recruited by the local gangs, as so many boys there are. His father described how, after turning down membership, gangs had threatened to kill Ixar."
from this one can assume that both parents are in the US and that the father testified before the court.
but as usual the DO leaves out a key piece of information whether or not the parents are here legally.

Threeboys
Threeboys

James, don't confuse fact with feelings!

ElGuapo
ElGuapo

@James080 Ah, the good old days of "LEGAL immigration" when the huddled masses were European and accepting immigrants into the US was "noble." 


Now that we're dealing with Mexicans and Central Americans we're building a Berlin Wall and militarizing the Southern Border to stop the "invasion." 


White people good. Brown people bad.


Thanks for setting me straight.







Q8DHIMMI
Q8DHIMMI

@James080 @ElGuapo 

They also were quarantined and screened for communicable diseases like tuberculosis and "mental deficiencies" like neurosyphilis and returned to their ports of origin post haste if such diseases were found to be present.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@pak152

I don't think authorities are allowed to ask the citizenship status of anyone claiming a border baby.

brewer_anthony
brewer_anthony

@ElGuapo Apparently he didn't set you straight, ElTardo: A POEM ON A PLAQUE IS NOT A LAW, AND THE STATUE WAS NOT CREATED TO INVITE IMMIGRATION.


And yes, immigration from nations with a history of political stability, innovation, and creativity is preferable to immigration from...well...Central America. Just sayin'. 


RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@TheRuddSki Everyone wants to come to America, nobody wants to be an American (including a lot of the Americans).

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@TPFKAP

He was staying with relatives after being abandoned, and his relatives were trying to recruit him into gangs maybe?

As soon as they can legalize everyone already here, then those relatives can move here as well.

Voot
Voot

@RTGolden1 @TheRuddSki You all are too hard on ElGuapo, who rightly perceives that our sovereign national immigration policy is really no more serious in practice than an inscription on a statue.


I expect our Middle East policy to be derived from a Clay Aiken tune any day now, should Hallmark turn down the commission.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@pak152

That's how advocacy works.

Threeboys
Threeboys

@ Ruddski. That's what the vacationer in chief wants. Just a phone and a pen.

Q8DHIMMI
Q8DHIMMI

@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul @TheRuddSki 

If the parents are here illegally then why didn't ICE detain the father and start proccessing him for deportation also?  If I overstayed in Canada visiting friends & family and my son came to visit me via Greyhound or walked the trail through Manning Park or Glacier National Park without a passport or other documentation that's what Canadian Immigration would do to me in a similar situation.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@pak152

If the reporter is from FOX.

An illegal-immigration advocate "reporter" would probably consider the question racist.

pak152
pak152

@TheRuddSki ah didn't realize the DO was advocating something. thought they were reporting. my bad


TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@pak152

I think they lean a little left on the issue.

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