MOSCOW, August 12 (RIA Novosti) - The influx of child immigrants from Central America into the United States has put a massive strain on immigration courts across the nation, The Time magazine reported.
“Things have reached a crisis point,” national pro bono promotion counsel for Human Rights First, Jennifer Rizzo, said of the situation immigration courts are facing.
So far, 1,071 unaccompanied minors who crossed the United States’ southwest border have ended up in Louisiana, the magazine reported.
The record numbers are a large burden on one of the state’s immigration courts in New Orleans. During the first six months of 2014, the court took on 450 juvenile immigration cases, according to government records obtained by Syracuse University’s transactional records access clearinghouse (TRAC). Last year the court saw 540 cases in total, while three years ago there were only 71 immigration cases.
Immigration courts across the nation, which are both overcrowded and underfunded, mirror the struggle in New Orleans. According to data collected by TRAC, the United States had reached a record high of 375,503 pending immigration cases as of late June.
Legal representation may be the single largest factor in determining whether an undocumented immigrant wins the right to remain in the United States, according to TRAC’s analysis of 100,000 case records. Immigrant children with an attorney are deported 50 percent of the time while minors facing proceedings without any legal representation side step deportation only 10 percent of the time.
The entire state of Louisiana has only half a dozen nonprofit immigration lawyers to serve immigrants, including the steady rise of unaccompanied children, Rizzo told Time magazine.
At the end of June, the New Orleans immigration court had a total of 1,216 pending juvenile immigration cases where 81 percent of the children had no lawyer. Overall, 87 percent of immigrants detained in Louisiana have no attorney, according to a study by Human Rights First.
Time reported the backlog of immigration cases in Louisiana’s two courts at 6,703, while nearly a decade ago there were only 732 cases. The average waiting time for case pending in the Executive office for Immigration Review (EOIR) is 587 days. The state has no permanent judge at this point due to a hiring freeze imposed in 2011.