Immigration judges to be sent to border detention centers

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The Justice Department said Friday that it will temporarily transfer immigration judges to six detention centers mostly near the border with Mexico in an effort to put President Donald Trump’s immigration directives into effect.

The department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review said the transfers to four locations in Texas and one each in Louisiana and New Mexico will occur Monday. Judges were previously moved to two immigration detention centers in California.

Trump’s executive order on border and immigration enforcement in January says judges should immediately be assigned to immigration detention centers. Many courts are for immigrants who are freed before their cases are heard.

The clogged immigration courts have gotten less attention than other aspects of Trump’s orders, such as construction of a wall on the 2,000-mile border with Mexico and the addition of 5,000 Border Patrol agents and 10,000 Immigration and Customs and Enforcement officers and agents. There was a backlog of 542,646 cases at the end of January, including 20,856 people who were being held in custody.

Jeremy McKinney, a Greensboro, North Carolina, attorney and board member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said transfers to detention centers means longer waits for people who aren’t being held.

“Now we’re starting to see cases postponed out into 2021,” he said. “Those families continue to live in legal limbo.”

The president’s budget proposal for the 2018 fiscal year released Thursday calls for a 19-percent increase in immigration judges to 449 positions.

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