We're putting in a speed lane for immigration hearings

Can anything be done to chip away at the backlog of hearings for illegal aliens challenging their deportation? The Justice Department under Jeff Sessions seems to think so and they’ve already begun implementing some guidelines to move things along. This, of course, has opponents of immigration laws wringing their hands and complaining that a more efficient system equals less justice or something along those lines. Time Magazine picks up that tale this week.

As with many stories dealing with illegal aliens, they begin by selecting the case of a poster child, obviously designed to elicit sympathy for the little guy fighting the system. In this role they select Jonas De La Luz Jeronimo, an illegal alien living in North Carolina who has been in the country in violation of the law for ten years. They’re quick to point out that he’s not one of those “criminal illegals” you’re always hearing about. He’s only had four traffic tickets. He’s also managed to father a four year old daughter during his time here, and being a citizen, she would be able to remain in the country after he was deported.

This leads us to the situation where Jeronimo’s attorney attempted to get a continuance in the case, hoping for more time to find evidence that the daughter would suffer “exceptional and extremely unusual hardship” without her father being around, thereby giving him a shot at avoiding deportation. The judge shot down the request and Time is citing some new guidance from the Justice Department as a possible explanation.

Under new guidance from the Trump Administration, immigration lawyers may be scrambling with less preparation time more often. On July 31, the Justice Department issued a memorandum to all immigration judges in the United States urging them to grant fewer continuances. “The delays caused by granting multiple and lengthy continuances, when multiplied across the entire immigration court system, exacerbate already crowded immigration dockets,” the letter from Chief Immigration Judge MaryBeth Keller reads. “Immigration Judges should not routinely or automatically grant continuances absent a showing of good cause or a clear case law basis.”

While this is clearly being painted as yet another story of, “look how mean Donald Trump is to all of the illegals,” a very real problem is being addressed here, as even the report from Time admits. We currently have a backlog of more than half a million cases where illegal aliens are managing to tie up the system for up to two years before they are finally in front of a judge for a ruling (and generally deportation). It’s somewhat ironic that Time chose to focus on Jeronimo because his excuses to avoid the consequences of his violation of our immigration laws are thin at best. He’s in the middle of a custody battle with the child’s mother and doesn’t even get to see her. How much of an exceptionally unusual hardship is she going to be suffering if he’s sent back to Mexico? And this completely ignores the fact that any hardship she may suffer was brought about by her father, who knew that he was in the country illegally when he decided to procreate.

These new guidelines don’t sound like any sort of mandate to treat people unfairly. Exceptionally complicated cases will still be able to receive a continuance at the judge’s discretion. What the DoJ is seeking to do is curb the practice of making the granting of such requests essentially automatic in too many courtrooms, leading to these massive delays and backlogs. Some cases are surely on the clear-cut side, with repeat border jumpers who obviously need to be put on a bus. But they could go one step further and see whether or not we could get more judges assigned to handle this case load just as we’re adding more Border Patrol and ICE agents to locate the suspects initially.

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