The last few months have been full of instances of the southwestern border being crossed by unaccompanied minors. It has been all over the news and various experts have also commented on the situation. While most news reports have studied and discussed the causes behind this, not a lot of experts have noticed the effect that this surge on the southwest border has had on immigration courts in the nation. The following points study this effect on immigration courts in light of a Transactional Records Clearing House (TRAC) Immigration study:
TRAC Immigration Study
TRAC Immigration is a watchdog of the government which is based in Syracuse University. A statistical compendium was recently released by TRAC where the effect of the sudden surge of immigration on the border was examined on the immigration courts. The report was released on July 15, 2014 and the figures are current up to the second quarter of the current year.
Juvenile Cases in Immigration Courts
From the financial year of 2005 to the financial year of 2014 (end of 2nd quarter), a total of 101,850 cases were juvenile cases, as per immigration court records. This was in relation to unaccompanied juveniles apprehended by DHS. Mexico is counted separately and, as such, the figure of 101,850 does not include cases from Mexico. The report mentions the reason for this being that DHS does not require a formal hearing for deporting Mexican juveniles after screening since it is within DHS’s power. This is why Immigration Courts only get a very small percentage of children from Mexico.
Surge in the Last 3 Years
Almost 50% of the reported juvenile cases in the immigration courts from 2005 to 2014 have occurred in the last three years. In 2012’s financial year, there were 11,411 cases. In 2013’s financial year, there were 21,351 cases. And in 2014’s financial year (until June 30, 2014), there have been 19,671 juvenile cases. While news reports have made this demographic surge to be a catastrophe, actual statistics reveal that it isn’t so. Taking a different perspective from the raw figures, in the U.S Immigration Courts, about 11% of the complete pending workload is in relation to juvenile cases.
Statistics Regarding Legal Representation In Case of Juvenile Cases
The TRAC study also noted that most of these juveniles were not with any form of legal representation when they appeared in court. TRAC’s study noted that this affected the outcome largely because chances of prevailing in court are improved drastically when there is legal assistance of a lawyer at hand. The government always comes with legal representation but providing the same to a juvenile is not its obligation when it comes to proceedings of the immigration court. This is the reason why almost 48% of juvenile cases in immigration courts come without legal representation.
Benefits of Legal Representation in Immigration Courts
According to the TRAC study, almost half the cases – 48% – had no legal representation in the immigration court. However, for the cases that did have legal representation, the results were pretty positive. As a result of legal representation from an experienced lawyer, almost half the cases were in favor of the unaccompanied juvenile. That is, the court allowed the unaccompanied child to stay in the US. In only 28% of these cases, the juvenile was removed from the US. In 26% cases, the immigration court issued a voluntary departure order to the juvenile which is sans most of the removal order’s severe legal consequences.
Lack of Legal Representation in Immigration Courts
When legal representation is not present, only 10% of the juveniles get to stay in the US. 90% are deported, out of which 77% are sent back with the help of a removal order and only 13% are sent back with a voluntary departure order. The study by TRAC can be read at length on the TRAC site but overall, it examines the effect of the surge in juvenile cases on the southwest border that are apprehended by DHS and the impact of this development on immigration courts.