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The Nightmare of Video Immigration Court Hearings

September 08, 2020 (1 min read)

Gaby Del Valle, The Verge, Sept. 8, 2020

"... Samuel had traversed 12 countries across three continents to get to his family in Boston. In Tijuana, within spitting distance of the US, he was forced to stop. While he waited, other migrants explained what would happen to him on the other side. He would be detained. He would have to go before a judge and explain everything: his long, roundabout journey to the United States, why he left Cameroon, and why he couldn’t go back.

Samuel understood that there would be a process. What he didn’t know was how long it would all take: two months in Tijuana, half a year in detention. He had no idea that during his six months behind bars, he would never see a judge in person. He didn’t realize that rather than traveling to court from his family’s home in Boston, he would call into his asylum hearing from a former prison in rural Louisiana. With only his lawyer at his side, Samuel would make his plea for safety in an empty room.

The judge overseeing his case — as well as the government attorney arguing for his deportation — would be more than 1,600 miles away, beaming in from a courtroom in downtown San Diego. To them, Samuel was an image on a screen, just one in a series of hearing after hearing telling their sad stories of violence and persecution, as remote and distant as anything they’d see on TV. To the judge, despite having risked his life traveling thousands of miles, Samuel could’ve been anywhere. ..."