Why Our Immigration Courts Can’t Handle the Child Migrant Crisis
An article by Stephanie Mencimer in Mother Jones from July 2014, Why Our Immigration Courts Can’t Handle the Child Migrant Crisis.
As part of his proposal for dealing with the crisis of child migrants crossing the border, President Obama has asked Congress for $3.7 billion in funding that would be used for, among other things, hiring more judges for the nation’s 59 immigration courts. Those courts have been overwhelmed by the influx of kids coming to the United States without parents or other relatives. But they were overwhelmed even before the children started showing up, in large part because of Republicans’ unwillingness to fund and staff them like other federal courts.
For years, since the second Bush administration radically stepped up, and Obama continued, deportation efforts targeted at undocumented immigrants, advocates have been begging Congress to beef up the funding for the courts that must process those new cases. As far back as 2006, then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales recognized that the immigration courts were woefully understaffed to process a backlog of cases that back then stood at 169,000. Gonzales called for more funding to increase resources for the courts, including adding more 40 judges.
But then his office proceeded to attempt to fill those jobs (and others at the Department of Justice) with political hacks who couldn’t make it through the Senate confirmation process to land on a regular federal court. (Immigration courts fall under the jurisdiction of the DOJ, and their judges don’t require Senate confirmation.) One example: Carey Holliday, a Louisiana delegate to the 2004 GOP convention who made headlines for trash-talking former Mother Jones editor Michael Moore, who was at the convention filing dispatches for USA Today.