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Terminating Immigration Court Cases Helps Some, Hurts Others

April 16, 2024 (1 min read)

Anna-Catherine Brigida, Houston Landing, Apr. 12, 2024

"When Blanca, 49, found out her immigration court case was thrown out, she let out a sigh of relief. When the same happened to Maria Pineda, 31, it was one of the worst days of her life. Both women have spent more than a decade in the U.S., living and working in Houston and raising their kids, who are U.S. citizens. Blanca, originally from Mexico and who asked to be identified by first name because of her immigration status, has another pathway to citizenship through her kids who are old enough to sponsor her. Pineda, from El Salvador, can only get legal status through winning her court case. Their fates were at the center of a Biden administration immigration policy implemented last year that aims to cut down the record 3.4 million immigration court backlog by dismissing court cases through prosecutorial discretion, a longstanding authority that allows agencies to decide how to focus their resources. In an increasingly winding immigration system that includes multiple federal agencies, some people, like Blanca, have other pathways available to them when one is shut off. For others, such as Pineda, the route to legal status is a narrow path with only one door at the end. Their stories show how policies intended to free up resources in a backlogged immigration system can instead push some immigrants into the shadows when a flawed “one size fits all” approach is applied."