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The New Yorker
January 8, 2018

When Deportation Is a Death Sentence
By Sarah Stillman

For years, most undocumented immigrants facing deportation in the U.S. were given a chance to go before a judge—to show evidence, call witnesses, and make a case for why they should be allowed to stay. In 1996, Congress revoked that right for tens of thousands of immigrants, expanding forms of “summary removal,” which can take place without a hearing or judicial input. By 2013, more than eighty per cent of deportations were nonjudicial, with the result that life-or-death decisions now routinely rest in the hands of immigration authorities at the border. Even when asylum seekers get the opportunity to see a judge, it can be difficult to prove that their fears merit legal relief. Asylum seekers aren’t entitled to lawyers, and children as young as three have been told to represent themselves in immigration court. According to Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, at Syracuse University, asylum seekers who find legal representation are five times more likely to win their cases. Geography is a strong determining factor in their fates. When the Government Accountability Office studied the outcomes of asylum cases in courts nationwide, it found significant geographical disparities in the responses to nearly identical situations. Between 2007 and 2014, some sixty per cent of asylum applicants won their cases in New York City, while in the courts of Omaha and Atlanta less than five per cent did.

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, Syracuse University
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