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ImmigrationImmigration courts in New Jersey try to cope with “fast-tracking” cases

Published 22 August 2014

The state of New Jersey is proceeding to process the cases of eighteen families that have been apprehended in May as part of a wave of mass migration from Central America. The number of underage illegal border crosser has now reached 57,500. The pace of cases in New Jersey immigration courts has quickened, alarming and overwhelming attorneys and judicial staff involved in the action.

The state of New Jersey is proceeding to process the cases of eighteen families that have been apprehended in May as part of a wave of mass migration from Central America. The number of underage illegal border crosser has now reached 57,500.

Following President Barack Obama’s vow to ensure that “cases are processed fairly and as quickly as possible,” the pace of cases has quickened, alarming and overwhelming attorneys and judicial staff involved in the action.

As the Star-Ledger reports, many of the families in the New Jersey cases are not expected to find representation, and their efforts are compounded by the courts desire to “fast-track” immigration cases given the high volume of cases reaching immigration courts.

Katie Manton, and attorney with Casa de Experanza, told the paper, “Although the court clearly gives them this list of legal providers, I would be 90 percent are not going to find lawyers. There are not enough, and the time frame they are giving them is very rushed. It’s a violation of due process.”

Normally, immigration cases take two to three years to come to trial because there are so few judges in New Jersey, say Manton. Additionally, those who seek asylum must fill out lengthy and detaied forms that can go a long way in determining a case before it begins. Rushing it, Manton and others argue, violates the same rights.

The courts, however, are rushing to handle the overflow. In the city of Newark, a July docket urged the removal of “20 to 25” unaccompanied migrant children to a September court date — known to insiders as a “rocket docket.” Usually, unaccompanied children are generally expected within twenty-one days, while parents with children are scheduled within twenty-eight days.

Further, unless families can locate pro bono representation, many cannot afford the cost of an immigration lawyer.

“You can’t have a fair hearing if it’s a child up against an attorney from the Department of Homeland Security. They will not have a legitimate shot,” said Matt Adams, the legal director for the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.

Presently, there have been no further amendments or changes to the procedures in New Jersey immigration courts.