A must-read interview in the Texas Observer between reporter Gus Bova and Ashley Tabaddor, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, highlights the way the Trump Administration’s Remain in Mexico policies and the absence of attorneys and accountability at the “kangaroo” tent courts in Brownsville and Laredo are subverting due process, endangering lives, and trampling on America’s moral leadership.
Read the full interview at the Texas Observer, “Immigration Judge Slams ‘Remain in Mexico’ Tent Courts,” and find key excerpts below:
… It’s not unusual to have upwards of 80 or 100 cases scheduled for a session. Everybody’s exhausted, the judge is exhausted, the interpreters are exhausted. There isn’t much room or opportunity to delve beyond very basic issues. So it makes it very difficult for the judges to effectively and fairly go through these cases.
The other big issue has to do with the logistical challenges that the respondents have in trying to secure counsel, which means the judges have to bear the brunt of that shortfall. Essentially, the judges have to wear these dual hats because under immigration law, people don’t have a right to appointed counsel if they can’t afford one or get one. The judges have been tasked with trying to level the playing field a bit, making sure the person understands what’s happening, understands their rights and responsibilities. And that puts a great degree of onus on the judges. And there’s myriad other issues because we cannot contact the individuals directly. The court system is designed to be able to send correspondence directly to each party, and we can’t do that because there are no specific addresses for these individuals.
…Then the other problem is with these new [tent] courts or soft sites, [immigration judges under the Department of Justice] are not controlling those sites. So we are 100 percent now essentially under the control of DHS when it comes to those courts. You cannot have a court run by a prosecutor. This is unimagined. And yet we find ourselves, instead of moving towards ensuring the independence of the immigration court and immigration judges, moving towards having less and less independence from DHS. They are controlling it, and we’ve been told that they’re restricting access.
…Normal immigration court is open to the public. In civil proceedings in America, one of the fundamental tenets of our judicial system is that there has to be accountability to the public. We don’t do stuff behind closed doors. That is not what America is about. And yet, with each [immigration] policy decision in the last three years, we are moving closer and closer to a model that doesn’t resemble anything in the American judicial system; it’s more like what you might see, perhaps, in China or Russia, countries that we hear asylum cases from, where judicial decisions are being made by prosecutors or at the direction or influence of prosecutors in the guise of a court. So it has become exceedingly problematic for the judges to try to stay true to their oaths of office.