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How to Improve the Immigration Court System. Part 2

Proposed Process

As soon as the detained alien notifies private counsel that he has been served with a notice to appear, private counsel can prepare a bond motion, motion for a change of venue, and supporting documents, and send the email to both the assistant district counsel and the immigration court.  The assistant district counsel can email his or her bond recommendation to the immigration court and the private counsel, and the immigration judge can issue a decision by email to both parties. 

If the private counsel believes the bond is too high, he or she can request a telephonic hearing under the old system.  However, private counsel will rarely request a telephonic hearing because they have already provided their best argument for bond in writing, and an immigration judge would be unlikely to change the ruling without new evidence.  Therefore, bond would be paid immediately by the alien to avoid any further detention. 

Benefits of the New Process:

Bond hearings would be reduced by at least 70%, and the immigration judge and the assistant district council could save an additional three to five hours or work per week.  Detainees who would eventually receive bond can be released days to weeks earlier, saving detention costs.  Clerks for both the U.S. CIS and the immigration court would save time creating paper files and transporting the hard files to the correct immigration judges and assistant district director, and the immigration court would reduce the use of court-paid interpreters. Also, more bed space would be available and the government could reduce its costs of food, shelter, medical attention, and security for detained individuals.    

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How to Improve the Immigration Court System. Part 1

Reducing the Costs if Alien Detention through the Bond Hearing Process
Reducing Bond Hearings by 70%
Present Process
Thousands of bond hearings are held at detention centers around the United States. Once the government serves a notice to appear to the alien and the court, the immigration judge will then schedule the bond hearing date. Private Attorneys can find out the bond hearing date through relatives of the alien or by calling the 800 number of the immigration court system. Once private counsel finds out the date, they usually have between five to ten days to file the bond motion or a motion for a continuance because the private counsel is often unavailable with such short notice or is located in another jurisdiction.
Once the bond motion date is set, the assistant district counsel, the immigration judge, and the private counsel conduct a telephonic bond hearing. These bond hearings usually last five to ten minutes and the immigration judge sets the bond or denies bond. This coordination of assistant district counsel, immigration judge, and private counsel adds days or even weeks to the bond hearing process. During this time, the cost is substantial with respect to food, shelter, medical attention, and security for detained individuals.
If an alien is eventually released on bond, the government cost savings of an earlier bond decision and release is substantial with respect to food, shelter, medical attention, and security for detained individuals.

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Immigration Reform: Modernizing the Immigration Court System

Part 1

Present Process

An alien is served with a Notice to Appear which provides the date and location at which the alien must appear at a master calendar hearing.  A large majority of aliens have an attorney at this point or retain a private attorney for the first master calendar hearing.  At the master calendar hearing, an alien or his attorney admits or denies the charges listed in the Notice to Appear, and provides the form of relief the alien will pursue.  If the alien has no relief available, the attorney will usually ask for another hearing to accept a voluntary departure order or a deportation order.

Depending on the jurisdiction, immigration judges have between 20 to 40 cases each week for their master calendar hearing.  At the master calendar hearings, the assistant district council must be present, and at times, a court-appointed interpreter or telephonic translators are used.  The weekly master calendar hearing usually takes between three to five hours.  In addition, an alien’s case could range from one to five (or more) master calendar hearings before the case is set for a trial date.  Seventy percent of all master calendar cases could beeliminated.  The direct cost savings would be the reduced hours spent per week by the assistant district counsel, the immigration judge, and court interpreters.

A complete copy of this Policy Paper was submitted to the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security.