The number of unoccupied minors crossing the border into the U.S. has declined, but the courts are still jammed with juvenile immigration cases.
The Obama Administration ordered that cases be fast-tracked in July, but now, some local attorneys and even judges say that was a bad move.
The process used to take several months; now, it's reduced to just a few weeks.
While that may sound like a good thing when tackling a nationwide backlog of 375,000 cases, some attorneys and judges say it's happening at the expense of the children.
Melissa Weaver with the Human Rights Initiative of North Texas works in the trenches of juvenile immigration court, recruiting attorneys to represent unaccompanied minors pro-bono, which has been a tough sell after the Obama Administration ordered that cases be expedited in record time.
“Not everyone has 30 hours in the next two weeks to devote to something, no matter how much you care about it and how passionate you are about it,” said Weaver.
Weaver says in the past, the federal immigration court in downtown Dallas averaged one juvenile docket a week. Now, there's nearly one every day.
“These cases have many components, and even if I want to do them as fast as I can, we may depend on the state court, and the state court also has its own dockets, and we can't force them to see our kids,” said Jiroko Lopez with the Dallas Hispanic Bar Association.
It's become such an issue that Dana Leigh Marks, President of the National Association of Immigration Judges, called out the Obama administration Wednesday, saying fast-tracking cases is unfair to immigrant kids, many of whom never get legal representation.
The Dallas Hispanic Bar Association is trying to stay ahead of the game, educating attorneys like Ruth Jeremiah, who normally does corporate law.
“With the influx of children that came to the border, I decided to jump right in because it deals with a passion of mine,” said Jeremiah.
In the meantime, the Human Rights Initiative of North Texas is now taking the step of handing out pamphlets, educating children and their relatives on how to represent themselves.
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