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The Source: Fixes For A Broken Immigration Court System

Flickr/SalFalko (CC BY-NC 2.0) http://bit.ly/2HJ1qxP

While comprehensive immigration reform continues to go fallow, millions already in the country and even more outside the U.S. hope to become citizens. 

Immigration courts are experiencing an explosion in docket size, little increased funding and assistance, and defendants who often don't speak the language and have no lawyer. The results are 900-day waiting lists for immigrants who are not detained, overwhelmed immigration judges, and case results that may not reflect justice--in short, a system in crisis.

Many are challenging the system to do more to address fixes. The New York Bar Association wants indigent defense to be set up so that every person in a immigration court has a lawyer paid for by the federal government.

According to a report the system would pay for itself through savings in, among other things, reduced detention. New York City has started  a pilot program with $500,000 of city money and the assistance from the legal community to provide a lawyer to immigrants that can't afford it.

Even more dramatically, the union for immigration judges has called on congress to improve funding, access to resources, and make the courts independent of the Department of Justice.


  • Dana Leigh Marks, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges.
  • Melissa Mark-Viverito, New York City Council speaker.
  • Teresa Coles-Davila, local private immigration lawyer and American Immigration Lawyers Association liaison to the San Antonio Immigration Court.

*This is the first segment in the September 3 edition of The Source, which airs at 3 p.m. on KSTX 89.1 FM. Audio from this show will be posted by 5:30 p.m.

Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org and on Twitter at @paulflahive