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Government adopts proposals to streamline immigration court cases

Immigration officials announced last year that they would review the huge backlog of cases in immigration court, at least in part, to reduce the backlog. That announcement was in relation to the policy of prosecutorial discretion, an issue previously covered here. Now government officials have adopted a series of ideas that aim to streamline the federal immigration court process.

The number of cases that have piled up to backlog the immigration court system reportedly has raised questions about the "fairness and effectiveness" of the immigration court process.

The Administrative Conference of the United States, an independent federal advisory committee created in 1964 to improve efficiency and fairness in the government, proposed a series of 37 recommendations for changes in the immigration courts. Officials say that those recommendations are being adopted to speed up the court process. Some of the recommendations, however, may take years to implement.

One major problem in the immigration courts nationwide is a shortage of judges to hear cases, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse. The recommendations seek to streamline areas to be able to efficiently and fairly work through the caseload, including a potential recommendation to reduce the amount of time judges spend in cases when an immigrant files for asylum.

More than 59 immigration courts spread across the country hear removal proceedings. Those courts are backed up with over 300,000 deportation cases that can take well over a year to work through the system. People ordered into an immigration court proceeding are not provided with an attorney. Sources say that 85 percent of the alleged undocumented immigrants that are called into immigration court do not hire any lawyer.

One recommendation reportedly will allow judges to sanction unprepared lawyers. Another recommendation seeks to streamline presentations intended to inform immigrants of their rights in immigration court. Generally, it is important for people facing the complex issues in immigration court to consider speaking with an experienced immigration lawyer.

Source: Boston Herald, "Feds look to streamline backlogged immigration courts," Meghan McCarthy- Cronkite News Service, June 28, 2012

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