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June 12, 2018

Immigration judges say Sessions’ decision makes it harder for people facing ‘life and death’ to win asylum in US
By Angilee Shah and Tania Karas

Unlike other court proceedings, immigrants who do not have or cannot afford attorneys are not guaranteed legal counsel. There are no public defenders in immigration court. And just 20 percent of those seeking asylum are represented by attorneys, according to a report by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. The Trump administration has taken several steps to clear the 700,000 cases pending in immigration court. At the end of May, Sessions instituted a quota system for immigration judges, requiring them to decide 700 cases each year and have fewer than 15 percent of cases be overturned on appeal. Marks told NPR that the quota could hurt judicial independence. “The last thing on a judge's mind should be pressure that you're disappointing your boss or, even worse, risking discipline because you are not working fast enough,” she said. According to TRAC, the courts decided more than 30,000 cases in the 2017 fiscal year compared to about 22,000 in 2016. Some 61.8 percent of these cases were denied; the agency does not report how many of the claims were due to domestic or gang violence, or for other reasons. For people from Central America, the denial rate is 75 to 80 percent. Ninety percent of those who don’t have attorneys lose their cases.

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, Syracuse University
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