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Border Courts Swamped With New Asylum Cases

September 16, 2019 (1 min read)

Andrew R. Calderón, The Marshall Project, Sept. 13, 2019

"Early this year, the Trump administration began forcing thousands of migrants seeking asylum to return to Mexico, to wait there for immigration court hearings that would decide whether they could settle in the United States. New government figures show the policy is rapidly flooding some courts assigned to handle the cases.

The numbers from the Executive Office for Immigration Review, the agency within the Department of Justice that runs the immigration court system, show that so far this year, nearly 17,000 new asylum cases for migrants waiting in Mexico have been assigned to border courts through the end of August. And the numbers have been growing. More than 6,000 were filed in August alone.

These figures are likely an undercount of the number of people affected by the policy. According to data compiled by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, 26,000 people had received notices to appear in these courts by the Department of Homeland Security through July.

... Jodi Goodwin, an immigration attorney at the Harlingen court, is rounding up lawyers from across the country to represent asylum seekers waiting across the border. She said the willing lawyers she has found are afraid to go to meet their clients in Mexico. Across the Rio Grande from Brownsville in Matamoros — where most of Goodwin’s clients are — there are frequent reports of shootings and other forms of violence. She said she is also concerned about due process for these asylum seekers in courts she described as understaffed and overworked, citing nearly 4,000 applicants over the last two months. “I can’t find enough lawyers to take on all these cases,” she said."