Thursday, January 16, 2020

Tent Court on the Border: Migrants Face a Judge on a Screen and a Lawyer They Can’t See

Photo: Eric Gay/Associated Press
Asylum hearings at special facilities for migrants waiting in Mexico are opened to the public for the first time
In one of the first such hearings to be open to the public, four migrants showed up for immigration court in a giant tent near the border this week to face a judge on a video screen and a government lawyer they couldn’t see.
The hearing was part of an unusual approach the Trump administration is taking to try to speed up the processing of migrants it has placed in a program officially called Migrant Protection Protocol, or MPP, but known colloquially as “Remain in Mexico.” Under the program, migrants wait in Mexico and are allowed into the U.S. only for court hearings on their asylum claims.
Laredo’s tent court, and a second about 200 miles south in Brownsville, opened in September and for months were closed to all but federal immigration authorities and attorneys representing migrants.
After months of complaints from immigration lawyers and advocates about the lack of transparency, the Department of Homeland Security said in December that it would open the tent courts to the public starting this month.
In a session Tuesday morning, Judge Meredith Tyrakoski and a government attorney were some 160 miles north in a San Antonio courtroom, where a video camera was focused solely on the judge and an interpreter sitting next to her, who translated the judge’s and lawyer’s comments into Spanish for the migrants.
The morning’s hearing mirrored those held in traditional courts, in which an initial hearing typically offers little more than a brief explanation of what will happen going forward.
At the end of the 30-minute court session, all four migrants—a mother, father and their 2-year-old son, and a single adult from Cuba—were ordered to report back to court for another hearing in February.
Before taking up their cases individually, Judge Tyrakoski warned the migrants that they would need to report back to court for all their future hearings or risk being banned from the U.S. for up to 10 years.
Read the rest from the WSJ HERE.

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