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Obama slow jams courts to stall deportations

By   /   September 10, 2014  /   News  /   No Comments

AP file photo

GOING NOWHERE: Immigration court backlogs are up 22 percent in the past year, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.

By Kenric Ward | Watchdog.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. immigration courts are backlogged with nearly 400,000 cases, and experts say the Obama administration is to blame.

The 396,552 cases are a 22 percent increase over last year, according to Syracuse University researchers.

Not surprisingly, waiting times are up, too. The average case in Imperial, Calif., currently lingers 857 days before resolution.

BIG 10: View the 10 states with the largest backlogs

George Mason University

POLITICS IN THE COURTS: Richard Kelsey, assistant dean of the law school at George Mason University, says immigration courts and prosecutors are slow-jammed by political considerations.

Richard Kelsey, assistant dean at the George Mason University School of Law and a longtime observer of immigration issues, said the problem starts at the White House.

“The president has telegraphed that he is going to take some kind of action (on immigration), so neither the courts nor the prosecutors are killing themselves to get things done,” Kelsey told Watchdog.org in an interview.

“Anyone who thinks there’s no correlation has their head buried so deep in sand they’re not getting enough air.”

Bob Dane, spokesman for the enforcement-oriented Federation for American Immigration Reform, sees other bad actors, as well.

“One reason the backlogs are building is that while illegal aliens who are caught crossing the border can accept a swift, no-fuss voluntary departure, most don’t opt for it. And why would they? They’re egged on to buy time by their immigration attorneys, local amnesty groups, the ACLU, the Mexican-American Legal Defense Fund and La Raza,” Dane told Watchdog.

Kelsey and Dane agree politics has gummed up the U.S. legal system.

“The process is rife with politics,” Kelsey said. “If you got a minor nuisance ticket, you wouldn’t wait 857 days for adjudication.”

In the interest of justice, Kelsey said backlogged cases could be moved to courts that could handle them in a more timely fashion. Yet they’re not moving.

“This is a deliberate political effort to slow down deportations,” the former prosecutor charged.

Dane said the large and growing case backlog proves “that a massive amnesty requiring background checks on 5 to 6 million illegal aliens is sheer folly.”

“It would be a rubber-stamped fiasco ridden with loopholes and national security threats because there are simply not enough bureaucrats from here to Pluto to manage the task,” he said.

WHO AND WHERE? Interactive chart tracks court caseloads and nationalities of defendants.

Making the backlogged system even more dysfunctional, defendants often fail to appear for their court hearings.

“Unlike normal court proceedings where a notice of the hearing must be served … there is no legal requirement that these individuals actually receive notification — only that a notice be sent out to the address they have,” said Susan Long, associate professor of managerial studies at Syracuse.

LONG GONE: See decisions in “absentia”  here.

Kenric Ward is a national reporter for Watchdog.org and chief of its Virginia Bureau. Contact him at [email protected] or at (571) 319-9824. @Kenricward

 

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Kenric Ward is the San Antonio-based reporter for Watchdog.org. A California native and veteran journalist who has worked on three Pulitzer Prize-winning newspapers, he received a BA from UCLA (Political Science/Phi Beta Kappa) and holds an MBA. He reported and edited at the San Jose Mercury News and the Las Vegas Sun before joining Watchdog.org in 2012 and previously reported from Virginia. Kenric can be reached at [email protected]