At last count, there was a backlog of at least three-quarters of a million cases on the U.S. Immigration Court’s dockets. It may take months for a judge to hear a case for the first time. Any instance in which an immigrant appeals a ruling may add a few months or years in processing. Many of the pending cases involve individuals either in detention or awaiting deportation.
While this court is unique in terms of how long it takes cases, there are countless ways this system is different from others.
It’s hard to know what charges an immigrant faces
If immigration officials have taken someone close to you into custody, then you may think that there’s some website where it will list their name and their alleged violations. There isn’t such a publicly accessible website to view, though.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials don’t maintain a public database of information about their detainees. In fact, generally, the only way you can access any information about them is to visit the courthouse and search for a paper file on them.
Those files generally include a detainee’s name and the country that they’re from. You shouldn’t expect the file to include details about the charges that an immigrant faces, though. So, knowing what immigration officials are holding them for may remain a mystery until some court hearings occur.
Immigration defendants don’t have access to public defenders
The U.S. Constitution affords individuals facing criminal charges access to free legal representation if they can’t afford it themselves. Immigrants in detention or facing deportation due to immigration violations don’t have the same rights.
This leaves many immigrants trying to navigate an unfamiliar court system. Immigrants can hire their own representation to help them better understand their rights in such situations.