Posted on July 25, 2019

Immigration Courts Are Replacing Interpreters with Orientation Videos

Isabela Dias, Pacific Standard, July 19, 2019


{snip} As first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle earlier this month, the Trump administration is taking steps to replace in-court interpreters with pre-recorded, subtitled orientation videos or telephone calls for immigrants at their master hearings. This week, the Department of Justice (DOJ) started to implement the plan at immigration courts in New York and Miami, leading to confusion and concerns about due process, according to sources speaking to the Chronicle. {snip}


In its attempt to speed up deportations and address the courts’ backlog, the Trump administration has taken steps to hire more immigration judges. At the same time, the administration has imposed a quota system on judges to make decisions faster and limited their ability to administratively close cases, a mechanism often used to manage dockets according to a set of priorities. But a recent analysis by the Marshall Project shows that, in fact, such measures seem to be slowing down the immigration courts.


In spite of the criticisms, and the call for limiting the use of video hearings to “procedural issues” by a 2017 federally funded study, the immigration courts have steadily expanded their use of video hearings, viewing them as solutions to backlogged courts nation-wide and a crunch of cases at the southern border.

And master hearings are particularly important because they determine how a case will proceed. Immigration judges explain about the right to counsel and provide information on any available protections against deportation, such as asylum. It’s also during that first appearance that judges set dates for future hearings, and missing those could lead to a deportation order.