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Immigration Court Backlogs End Up Benefitting Refuge

In recent years, the influx of unaccompanied alien minors into the U.S. has taken the immigrant population in Florida to new heights. The reason for the increased influx of unaccompanied minors from Latin America is the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA), which was created to provide enhanced measures for combating human trafficking, and also to make it more difficult for the U.S. to swiftly deport children back to their country of origin. Since the enactment of the TVPRA, people who make money from smuggling aliens into the U.S., known as “coyotes,” have targeted families promising to bring children to the U.S. where they will receive housing, food, a court hearing, and protection from gang violence and other safety issues in their home countries. Such practices are lucrative, and many of the coyotes receive payment before the journey begins, no matter if the child actually makes it to America.

Once in America, these children are first detained, but then typically released into the custody of any family members that they have already residing in the U.S. Once released, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will issue a Notice to Appear that alleges that the minor is illegally in the country and thus subject to removal. The Notice to Appear schedules the minor for a master hearing with an Immigration Court. Because of the large number of unaccompanied minor cases, the immigration courts in the U.S. are currently experiencing heavy backlogs that result in a delay of years between an illegal immigrant’s initial removal hearing and his or her final determination hearing. During this time frame, the minors live new lives in the U.S., and are not forced to return to their home country. Ultimately, this backlog could have a significant positive impacts on a minor’s ability to remain in the country.

The Surprising Benefits of the Immigration Court Backlog

A removal proceeding, commonly referred to as deportation, is the legal process through which the U.S. government determines whether an illegal immigrant will be allowed to remain in the U.S. Currently, the backlog in immigration courts around America means that the adjudication process to remove an illegal immigrant takes longer than it used to because of the increased amount of unaccompanied minors and other asylees.

This backlog is actually benefiting unaccompanied minors and other illegal immigrants. A minor may have his or her initial hearing with the court, and then have a year or longer before he or she actually has to submit an application for relief for removal proceedings. This time period is important, as during that time the minor can file an application for withholding of removal, claiming TVPRA status based on asylum grounds. The asylum claim is based on the fact that it would be unsafe and a true threat to the minor’s security and well-being for him or her to be removed to his or her country of origin. If approved, the minor can be granted legal status to reside in the U.S.

In addition to being able to raise the asylum claim, unaccompanied minors can also have relatives who are in the U.S. petition for them to receive lawful status in the country. Depending on the circumstances, a minor’s U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident parent, spouse, or child can sponsor him or her for such relief. Because of the backlogs, minors could start removal proceedings without any lawful U.S. relatives, but, by the end of the proceedings years later, they could have a U.S. citizen spouse, or U.S. citizen child, and use the status of that qualifying relative in order to have removal cancelled or withheld. This time frame also allows the minor to receive a U.S. education and to live his or her life in the U.S., free from the dangers faced in his or her home country.

Though the current backlog in U.S. immigration courts is working to the advantage of many illegal immigrants, the adjudication process can be extremely difficult and confusing, especially for youth and non-English speakers. If you have any questions about the immigration process, or need representation in your case, contact Jeff S. Weiner, P.C. in Miami today for immediate help.

Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A., Criminal Defense Attorneys, is located in Miami, Florida and serves the following communities: Alachua County, Gainesville, Orlando, Broward County, Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, Pembroke Pines, Pompano Beach, Collier County, Naples, Hillsborough County, Tampa, Indian River County, Vero Beach, Lee County, Cape Coral, Fort Myers, North Fort Myers, Manatee County, Sarasota, Marion County, Ocala, Ocklawaha, Miami-Dade County, Hialeah, Homestead, Key Biscayne, Miami, Miami Beach, and North Miami Beach.
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