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Immigration Law

S.F. Immigration Court "Conveyor Belt" Fast-Tracks In Absentia Orders

Tal Kopan, Deepa Fernandes, San Francisco Chronicle, Nov. 1, 2021

"A San Francisco immigration judge took less than an hour on Tuesday to order 23 people deported. But none of the immigrants was present and it’s unclear whether they knew about the hearing — even as they were deported for missing it. The proceedings are part of a recently enacted effort the San Francisco Immigration Court says it’s undertaking to find immigrants it loses track of. Instead, advocates say the court has set up a deportation conveyor belt, one that fast-tracks removal orders before immigrants can make their case to stay in the country. The practice appears to have started this summer, when immigration attorneys became aware of a subset of hearings being scheduled for immigrants whose mail was being returned as undeliverable. The court was notifying immigrants of the hearings by sending mail to the same incorrect addresses, practically ensuring few would show up. In immigration law, not showing up at a hearing is enough to be ordered deported on the spot, in what’s known as an “in absentia” order of removal. According to court data reviewed by The Chronicle, as many as 173 people were given deportation orders because of such proceedings in August and September — a nearly ninefold increase from the 20 similar orders given the previous seven months combined."