The Ministry of Justice is putting new pressure on immigrants about to be deported


Immigrants struggling with deportation generally have the opportunity to go to court where they can ask a judge to allow them to reside in the United States on the grounds that they are entitled to asylum or other legal options.

This year, when the coronavirus epidemic caught on in the United States, the nation’s immigration court system – operated by the Department of Justice – was partially shut down, leading to a postponement of negotiations and amplifying the growing backlog already facing the system. From August 2020, the current active court case backlog has grown to about 1.2 million, an increase of 11% from early March, according to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, which tracks immigration court data.

Of late, however, despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, immigration lawyers began to see orders asking their clients to file their application for deportation relief in about five to six weeks. If the deadline is not met, the judge can issue a deportation order, meaning they can be deported at any time.

Victoria Neilson, a lawyer for the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, called the orders “disruptive” and “politically motivated.”

“It seems that the goal is to increase deportation also for people who make an application to the immigration court with all intentions. For some people, the next court date is not many months or a year for the future,” he said.

Under Donald Trump’s presidency, the administration has redesigned the U.S. immigration system, making an already complex process more difficult to navigate and be successful. And during the declining weeks of Trump’s office, his administration continued to make policy changes, including issuing rules requiring asylum to be tightened and asylum agreements to be rolled out with Central American countries.

The latest move by the Immigration Review Bureau of the Ministry of Justice has tackled lawyers, especially those representing migrant children.

“These blue orders leave enough time for vulnerable children and their attorneys to take the necessary steps to prepare and file, optimally prepare, and file for waiver applications,” said Jason Boyd, Director of Kids in Policy The Need for Protection, which provides legal services for migrant children. “From that point of view, these orders fly against fundamental fairness.”

Children were usually given more time to prepare.

“Because of postal delays and other factors, many of these children have about three weeks to submit applications with potentially life-threatening consequences,” Boyd said.

The Ministry of Justice did not respond to the request for an opinion.

In one case, the Unaccompanied Child Schedule Order, signed on October 29, required the application to be received by December 1, according to the copy shared with CNN.

“The request for exemption was due at the main hearing of the calendar, which was adjourned due to COVID-19,” the order states. “The Court hereby sets a new fixed time limit for the defendant to file any and all requests for immunity.” If you do not submit by the deadline, the order will continue and may result in a removal order.

Usually, court hearings set a deadline for application – which can take time to prepare and go through the system. Adherence to the deadline may also limit the options to which an individual is entitled, as not all forms are issued by the immigration court, and some also go through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, which can take longer to process an application.

In some cases, applications are received months before the individual’s next court hearing. “In every case, there is some scrambling to make sure we are doing the best, even though we don’t feel right. We still have to meet the judge’s deadline,” Claire Doutre, Houston’s attorney at Kids, needs protection, CNN said.

Lawyers also told CNN that the orders received so far were signed by supervisory judges rather than judges assigned to the case, who would be better acquainted with the details of the individual’s situation and would generally decide how much time to give the person.

“The judges find out that the cases have been dragged behind their backs and the orders have been discontinued. And it is not clear what will happen next,” said Judge Ashley Tabaddor, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges.

“There is nothing unreasonable in looking back at them and seeing what would be appropriate. The problem is that the agency is doing this uniformly, outside of the judge. This is a direct intervention,” he added.

Early in the process, government-detained migrant children attended deportation hearings despite the epidemic, and at times the children were left in the process without being physically present by a lawyer.