Judges Decry 'Rocket Dockets' for Refugee Kids

Judges Decry 'Rocket Dockets' for Refugee Kids

"Two federal immigration court judges criticized the fast-track deportation hearings for unaccompanied minors today and called for the courts to be made independent from the Justice Department.

The judges, leaders in the National Association of Immigration Judges, said the recent surge of immigrant children from Central America cast a spotlight on the problems of the nation’s immigration courts in 59 locations, including Dallas.

Dana Leigh Marks, union president and a San Francisco-based judge, said children need special protection and time because of their vulnerability and to gain their trust so the children can tell their stories. “The association has come out and said it is a mistake to bring these cases to the front of the docket,” Marks said in a televised news conference from Washington, D.C.

Denise Noonan Slavin, a union vice-president and a Miami-based judge, took issue, too, with the order to hasten deportation hearings for the recent arrivals from Central America. Slavin and Marks said the courts role should be as neutral arbitrators with a separation from the prosecutors, which they labeled an “alternate legal universe” with “curiouser and curiouser” challenges, in a literary reference.

“There is no other court that would turn the docket on its head at the request of one party,” Slavin said. “But the immigration is flipping the docket by moving cases of newly arrived children to the front of the docket at the demand of the Department of Homeland Security. In some cases it may make sense to hear the cases early, certainly not in all of them.

“…This is not an amusement park where you can fast-pass” proceedings, Slavin said." - DIANNE SOLÍS, Dallas Morning News, Aug. 27, 2014.