Immigrants fighting deportation had the opportunity to go before a judge and ask to stay in this country because they qualify for asylum or for another legal reason. But a recent U.S. Department of Justice requirement lowers the odds of staying in this country by restricting the deadline that some immigrants can file deportation defense documents.
Restrictions and backlog
During the last four years, the federal government made changes to the country’s immigration system which made a complicated system even more daunting for immigrants. Over the last four weeks, other regulations were issued restricting asylum and increasing asylum agreements with Central American countries.
The national immigration court system, within the Justice Department, partially closed during the pandemic. This led to the postponement of hearings and added to an already existing backlog. The active court backlog rose to approximately 1.2 million. This was a 11 percent increase from the beginning of March, according to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.
Immigration attorneys have recently seen orders that immigrants must file applications seeking deportation relief within five to six weeks, despite the pandemic’s complications. But applications can take time to prepare and go through the system. Typically, application deadlines were imposed during court hearings.
If this deadline is not met, a judge could issue a removal order which places immigrants at risk of being deported at any time. Many orders were signed by supervisory judges instead of the judges assigned to the case. The assigned judge, however, is usually aware of the case’s details and the time that should be allotted for deadlines.
This requirement increases the possibility that people who intend to file an application with an immigration court will be deported. The next court date for may people is not for many months or a year into the future.
Failure to meet deadlines may restrict options for immigrants fighting deportation. In addition to immigration courts, some immigrants may seek relief through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services which may take longer to process applications.
Children facing deportation
Migrant children in government custody had to attend deportation hearing earlier in the pandemic and sometimes without legal representation. This change now poses new and special problems for children who usually had more time to prepare in the past.
Children and their attorneys will have insufficient time to adequately prepare and submit effective applications for relief under these deadline requirements. Mail delays and other problems may leave them with only three weeks to submit applications opposing deportation.
An attorney can help assure that rights are not lost in the deportation process. They can seek the best available options in a changing situation.