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Trump Administration Tightens Deadlines For Immigration Cases Of Migrant Children

The Trump administration is currently overseeing and reinforcing a tight deadline for immigration cases of migrant children in government custody in an effort to make faster decisions about deportation, according to an email copied by CNN.

The message seems designed to put pressure on immigration judges to complete such cases within a Sixty (60) day window that’s rarely met and falls in line with a broader effort by the government to complete immigration cases at a much quicker speed.

Judge Ashley Tabaddor, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, admits deadlines are “putting the judge under pressure.”

“The only thing that can get done within Sixty (60) days is if an immigrant wants to give up their cases or go home or be deported,” Tabaddor told CNN.

The Executive Office for Immigration Review, which supervises the nation’s immigration court system, forwarded the email last month to assistant chief immigration judges, reminding them that immigrant children in government custody are to be considered the same as detained adults immigrants for purposes of scheduling cases.

While the Sixty 60-day deadline cited in the email is not new, it’s difficult to meet for cases of unaccompanied kids, in part, because of the time it takes to process the relevant information for a child who comes to the U.S alone. As a result, cases can often take months, if not years, to process.

The previous year, an uptick in unaccompanied immigrant children at the US-Mexico border strained the administration’s resources. Over the course of the 2019 fiscal year, Border Patrol agents arrested around 76,000 immigrant children on the southern border, compared to 50,000 the last fiscal year.

Unaccompanied children arrested at the southern border are taken into custody by the Department of Homeland Security and transferred to Health and Human Services. While in care at shelters across the US, case managers work to place a child with a sponsor in the country, like a parent or relative.

Like adults and families who cross the US-Mexico border, children immigrants are put into immigration proceedings to determine whether they can continue staying in the United States.

The email from EOIR, dated January 30, says unaccompanied migrant children who are in the care of the government should be on a “Sixty 60-day completion goal,” meaning their case is expected to be attended to within 60 days. It goes on to reference complaints received by the office of the director but does not say who issued the complaints or include punishments for not meeting the completion goal.

EOIR spokeswoman Kathryn Mattingly said she could not comment on internal communication.
Golden McCarthy, deputy director at the Florence Immigrants and Refugee Rights Project, which works with unaccompanied immigrant children, said “it does take time to reach out to” a child’s foster parents or caretaker in the child’s life.

“We all know that many times the child does not necessarily have the full picture of what happened; it does take time to reach out to fosters parents and caretakers in their lives to understand,” she said.

Programs designed to quickly decide cases have came up before. The Obama administration tried to get cases scheduled more quickly but deferred to the judges on the deadline thereafter, whereas the Trump government’s move seems to be an intent to conclude cases within a certain period, according to Rená Cutlip-Mason, chief of Program at the Tahirih Justice Center.

The Trump led administration also appears to be getting cases scheduled quicker. In Arizona, for instance, the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Project have begun seeing kids called into immigration courts earlier than they had been before.

In a statement submitted to the House Judiciary Committee in January, the group detailed the cases of children, one as young as Ten(10) years old, who appeared before an immigration judge within few days of arriving in the United States.

“I think our clients and the kids we would work with are strong,” McCarthy, the deputy director at the project, admits. “But to navigate the complex immigration system is hard for adults to do, and so to explain to a kid that they will be facing a judge who will be asking them questions, the kids don’t normally always understand what that means.”

This also in many cases can also complicate a child’s case since he or she may eventually relocate to another state to unite with a parent or guardian, requiring the child’s case to be moved to an immigration court in that state.