Immigration hearings are now taking place in tent courts, which is troubling to many people. The number of cases under the “Remain in Mexico” program have the courts overwhelmed. In response to this, many asylum cases happen with the applicant in a tent court while the judge remains in a traditional court.
A closed-circuit system enables the judge and petitioner to communicate remotely. One concern is what happens when there are technical glitches or failures, but that is only a small concern compared to some others.
What’s the problem with the tent courts?
The tent courts are closed to the public, and this is causing upheaval for some individuals. Traditional courts are open to the public. The docket is available, and immigration lawyers and advocates can attend in the regular courts.
These tent courts are located right on the border between the U.S. and Mexico. Since asylum applicants are sent back to Mexico while they await their trial, they are expected to return to the location of the video conference on the specified date and time. Because they are located on secured lands, some worry that the applicants won’t have access to those who can assist them.
The government notes that in the traditional courtroom, the judge remains open to the public. However, this doesn’t provide the applicant an opportunity to receive help. It further claims that the implementation of these tent courts should enable people seeking asylum to have a hearing in weeks or months instead of years.
What does this mean for immigrants?
Opponents of the tent courts are concerned that these videoconferencing proceedings could harm people who are desperate for asylum. Not only are they sent back home to Mexico to await the hearing, but they also have to make their way back to the border on the reporting date. This may be difficult for some.
The issue of safety is also essential. People who are trying to flee from violent cities, like Tijuana, are being forced back there until they can have a hearing.
Some worry that the video conference might pose a communication challenge. Addressing this is critical if the program is going to remain in place. A way for people to communicate with advocates is crucial, and this needs to allow in-person meetings.
Asylum seekers are often frightened and unsure of what to say or do. They might not be familiar with the laws here, and may not realize that missteps can result in a petition denial. The only way to combat this is to ensure they have access to people familiar with these cases who can help them throughout the process.