Earlier this year, several North County Immigration clients were among the hundreds of immigrants nationwide that were duped into showing up for court hearings that didn’t exist. The Justice Department is struggling with an overloaded immigration court system and the effects of the partial government shutdown. Immigration attorneys in San Francisco reported that lines wrapped around the court building, a line stretched for blocks to get into the court in Los Angeles and hundreds of people waited outside the court in Newark, New Jersey. These problems are an example of US immigration authorities issuing a large number of inaccurate notices ordering immigrants to appear at hearings that, it later turns out, had never been scheduled. CNN reported last year that they’d observed a wave of what they call “fake dates” pop up. For instance, lawyers reported examples of notices to appear issued for nonexistent dates, such as September 31, and for times of day when courts aren’t open, such as midnight.
The American Bar Association is proposing a major overhaul of the US immigration system, calling the courts that decide whether to deport immigrants “irredeemably dysfunctional.” “The immigration courts are facing an existential crisis,” the association says in a report released Wednesday. “The current system is irredeemably dysfunctional and on the brink of collapse.” The only way to fix “serious systemic issues,” the report argues, is to create what’s known as an Article I court. Akin to tax or bankruptcy courts, this would be a court that’s independent from the Justice Department. It’s an idea that’s been proposed before by advocates and immigration judges. And the American Bar Association listed a similar proposal as an option for reform in a 2010 report on the US immigration system.