Immigration Proceedings or Kangaroo Courts?

A new study by Appleseed, a non-profit organization focused on reforming the American justice system, highlights the extent to which misguided deportation-only strategies have led to a breakdown in our immigration court system. The study, based on interviews with more than one hundred practitioners, academics, and government officials, found that America’s immigration courts are overwhelmed by the number of cases flooding the system.

Significantly, the vast majority of those facing deportation are neither criminals nor security threats:

From 2004 to 2006, only 126 cases in Immigration Court (or 0.0155 percent of all cases) involved terrorism or national security concerns, and the percentage of cases involving allegations of any type of crime amounted to only 13 percent. The vast majority of immigrants in Immigration Court present no danger to the security of the United States.

And yet, the study found that they are frequently treated with little respect or dignity, revealing a shockingly low level of professionalism in some courts:

It is well documented that the single best predictor of an immigrant’s success or failure in Immigration Court is the identity of the judge who hears the case. Moreover, countless immigrants are subjected to harassing or denigrating treatment in Immigration Court, cannot understand what they are being asked or told, or have no assistance in navigating the byzantine court process.

Jennifer Ludden, a correspondent at NPR who covers immigration issues, tells a similar story about the impact of deportation-only strategies on already beleaguered Immigration Courts.

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