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Immigration Courts Need Urgent Help: ABA Asks Congress to Act

By Robin Enos on June 01, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Our immigration courts need more resources urgently, says Karen Grisez, chair of the ABA Commission on Immigration.

Grisez' concerns will sound familiar to every immigration practitioner.

Noncitizens removed from the U.S. have increased 450% in the past 12 years, from 69,680 in 1996 to 393,289 in 2009, Grisez said.

"Our immigration system is in crisis, overburdened and under-resourced, leading to the frustration of those responsible for its administration and endangering due process for those who appear before it," Grisez said in her written testimony to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee this week.

ABA's caseload numbers alone appear to merit Congress' urgent attention. Especially in light of the amount of attention paid to this issue in the public square.

The ABA proposals to Congress:

  • Hiring more immigration judges, to reduce judges' average caseload from the current 1,145 to about 700 each
  • Hiring more clerks, to reduce the clerks' load from four judges each to one judge each
  • Expand noncitizen access to legal counsel, to decrease procedural snags and excessive appeals that result from self-representation
  • Increase prosecutorial discretion to allow focus on noncitizens who threaten national security and public safety
  • Allow asylum officers, not courts, to handle claims for expedited removal, and extend the one-year deadline for asylum seekers to file claims

These ABA proposals, and more ABA recommendations for immigration court reforms can be found in ABA's Executive Summary to its "Reforming the Immigration System: Proposals to Promote Independent, Fairness, Efficiency and Professionalism in the Adjudication of Removal Cases."

And to the law firm practicing immigration law, these ABA proposals assume special urgency.

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