One of the guarantees of the Constitution is the right to a ‘fair and speedy’ trial. While this is a good thing, the fact is that often times this does not happen. Court cases are either delayed for procedural reasons, unintentional accidents, or attorneys who attempt to stall the case in order to hopefully get their client a better sentence.
The immigration courts in the US are no different, as the backlog docket for deportation as it concerns those cases pending for migration continues to grow. However, the recent court situation has become exponentially worse, for in spite of the Trump administration’s claimed at various attempts to cut back on asylum seekers and clean up the system, it has become exponentially worse. Standing at about 542,000 cases beginning in January 2017 when Trump took office, it has been a mere two years for the backlog to grow to over a million according to the Wall Street Journal, which reports that:
The growing backlog is due in part to the surge of Central American families crossing the U.S.-Mexico border this year, with more people crossing illegally in May than during any other month in a decade. The Trump administration’s crackdown on illegal immigration has also contributed, experts say. (source)
The immigration issue has been on of the cornerstone issues of the trump adminstration. It is arguable that such is the platform which Trump based his campaign on, with the saying “Build The Wall” in reference to a massive wall on the US’s southern border as the main object of attention.
In the years since the, and in spite of claims that the Trump administration is taking steps in order to address the backlog and has also called on Congress to act to address the issue, or the fact that the administration has taken to various messages on social media and news stories in what appears to be an attempt to send a message that unauthorized immigrants seeking asylum can no longer stay in the country for many years, the situation with the courts does not correspond to this. As the number of court cases increases, the result has been an increased delay in getting court dates for asylum seekers who arrived in the country earlier. It has also been made worse due to the fact that the Trump adminitration has stopped giving priority to immigrants with criminal records, something which was brought in under the Obama administration and which as reports note:
…sped up adjudication by allowing immigration judges to close cases administratively, meaning many dismissed charges against other people without deporting them. The Trump administration has said that most illegal immigrants should be deported.
The administration’s actions have had the effect of allowing most people who already have asylum cases pending to stay longer—though TRAC data suggest most of these immigrants will ultimately not qualify for asylum. Asylum seekers are currently issued work permits while they wait, though the administration has moved to do away with the requirement to issue these work permits.
The Trump administration has argued that the extensions and work permits provide a back door for immigrants to stay in the country and that the wait times have made crossing the border only more attractive for prospective migrants.
It is true that the Trump administration has attempted to resolve the problem by making procedural changes, such as asking for judges to work faster, or moving the jurisdiction of cases from one place to another, and sometimes hiring more judges to work said cases. It is true that the available pool of judges has almost doubled during the Trump administration’s tenure. There have even been “tent courts” have been established to help expedite hearing cases, most often connecting asylum seekers by Internet teleconference to their hearing. However, some have complained and with good reason that such haphazardly applied procedures are “another glaring reason why the immigration courts have been deprived of key characteristics of what it means to be a court in the United States,” functioning in ways more similar to a military tribunal or arbitrary system of justice rather than something that is based on order, procedure, and the rule of law.
The Trump administration has announced its intentions to limit applications for asylum under the justification that it will allow the courts to focus on existing cases. Even the Supreme Court has permitted the Trump administration to give preference to Americans of Mexican origin as opposed to those from other parts of Central America to quality for asylum, something which bars anyone who has crossed another country on their way to the U.S. from winning an asylum case. But how is this to be effectively enforced? Indeed one could say that he is from Mexico, and without papers or proof to back it up, what does it mean as far as practical applications are concerned except to have a procedural statement on paper?
There are other measures being discussed by the administration, including the application of a $1000 fee to “appeal” in the immigration courts, but would this be enforced, and if so, how to do this is the next question, as it would likely face a series of court challenges.
What may come of this increased “backlog” of cases is, if Trump wins, a stall on the number of asylum applications only to be “overturned” by what would be a near guarantee of a Democrat victory in 2024. The other possibility is that if Trump loses in 2020, which is unlikely but still possible given the political landscape and the continual erosion of Trump’s bases in combination with demographic changes taking place throughout the country, that a Democrat 2020 victory would result in the abolition of many of the policies being taken by the Trump administration right now.
Either way, the actions of the Trump administration do not represent a “liberal block” on his actions, nor an actual willingness to fix the problems with the immigration system, but to do what has been done by both parties for years, which is to give the impression of fixing the border issue while continuing to exploit it for political gain and preserve the status quo of US geopolitical plans for domestic agriculture and foreign policy.
The people who lose most in this are those attempting to immigrate from the Americas, for while there is the issue of “illegal” crossings and staying illegally, there is a need to decisively manage what is a situation affecting the lives of over a million people, as many of those who have cases also have families, and the lack of care for the human good of these people, regardless of the court ruling, is gravely uncharitable as they are reduced to sacrificial pawns in a meaningless political struggle.