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Salt Lake City Weekly
October 10, 2018

Technical Difficulties: Thanks to video-teleconferencing, Salt Lake City immigration court judges can decide the fates of immigrants held in a detention center 856 miles away.
By Kelan Lyons

Since July 9, immigrants like Romero who are detained in the Tacoma detention center have been appearing in the Salt Lake City immigration court—technically located in West Valley City—via a video-teleconferencing, or VTC, feed. Such technology is a critical part of the Department of Justice's strategy to cut the immigration court backlog in half by 2020. An Executive Office for Immigration Review fact sheet states that VTC saves immigration judges travel time, helps them to hear more cases and allows them to help out their counterparts stationed in other courts with more sizable backlogs. Data suggests that Tacoma's immigration court has fewer pending cases than Salt Lake City's. According to Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a nonpartisan database maintained at Syracuse University, there are 1,028 pending cases in the Tacoma court, compared to 2,641 here. Smaller caseload notwithstanding, there's a critical distinction between the cases brought before the judges in each court: the immigrants in Tacoma are locked in a detention center as they await a judge's ruling on whether they can stay in the U.S. Before taking over the Tacoma docket, the majority of cases heard by the local court's three judges involved immigrants who were not in detention facilities, since federal immigration authorities have a limited capacity for detention in Utah. As an EOIR spokesperson previously told City Weekly, resolving the cases of people who are detained is EOIR's "highest priority."

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, Syracuse University
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