Did Media Coverage Help Get a Dallas Immigration Judge Reassigned?

Did Media Coverage Help Get a Dallas Immigration Judge Reassigned?

"The day the little girls in pink saw their cases dismissed, at the insistence of ICE and over Sims' clear frustration, most of the kids got what they asked for.  In fact, after that long morning of hearings, a few lawyers mentioned how smoothly their cases had gone, and a couple wondered whether the presence of two reporters played a role.  A reporter from The Dallas Morning News had been in the gallery that morning too, and word had spread through the courthouse.

It spread to Washington, too.  The next week, I called the courthouse.  The court's administrator, once happy to provide Sims' hearing schedule, refused.  She'd been ordered to forward my request to press officers at the Justice Department, she said.

Eventually the Justice Department obliged, identifying a few upcoming cases.  But by the time the next hearing arrived, the news had already swept through immigration lawyers' offices across the city: Sims was off the juvenile docket.  With no explanation, the Justice Department had reassigned those cases to a different judge.

Officials declined to say why, but lawyers in town have a hunch.  Not long before reporters started showing up in Sims' courtroom, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, a national trade group, had filed a complaint with Sims' bosses. Then, in January, at least two private attorneys sent complaints of their own, identifying a handful of juveniles whom Sims had ordered removed over the objection of ICE.

Whatever motivated the change, it was no small undertaking.  Practically overnight, hundreds of cases were moved from Sims' docket.  That included, to the delight of many lawyers, cases already in progress.  It included the case of Jose, the Honduran twin who was living under a deportation order after showing up late to his hearing.

After Sims ordered Jose removed, his attorney had filed a motion to reopen the case, pleading with the judge to not punish the boy for his own mistake.  But before Sims got a chance to rule on it, the case was moved to a different judge.  That judge promptly reopened the case.  Then he terminated it." - Joe Tone and Obed Manuel, Dallas Observer, Apr. 10, 2014.