Courts in Tents Tackle Immigration Case Backlog

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Federal immigration authorities have erected temporary tent complexes in Texas to handle backlogged cases of undocumented immigrants seeking to remain in the U.S. The first complex in Laredo began hearing cases immediately. Another complex in Brownsville is expected to be operational Thursday. Officials with U.S. Department of Justice who spoke on condition of anonymity said the hearings are not yet being opened to the media, reports the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. Permanent facilities in El Paso and San Diego, which hear what the government calls Migrant Protection Protocols cases, are unable to handle the volume of cases,officials said.

No cost figures were provided for the tent structures erected on federal property near the U.S.-Mexico border. Officials did not say how many cases were handled at the Laredo complex or how many applications by migrants seeking to remain in the U.S. were approved or denied. The facilities can handle the same functions as permanent court complexes. Judges from the interior U.S. can preside using remote technology. Interpreters, either in person or via teleconferencing, are being made available. Rooms in the temporary facilities are available for attorneys to meet with clients and for family members of migrants to wait while the proceedings are carried out. Attorneys must be certified ahead of time, and lawyers are not allowed to roam the complex “to solicit clients.” A Justice Department spokesman said at the outset, authorities are not allowing the public or the media to view the court proceedings due to security concerns. Perhaps later, reporters might be allowed to request access to the tented courts and those requests would likely be considered on a case-by-case basis.The officials said the temporary courts will likely remain in place for up to about a year.

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