The immigration court backlog is ridiculous and we need comprehensive immigration reform now

“The current backlog of 360,000 + cases means an average wait of 573 days before a case is resolved. ”

“The current backlog of 360,000 + cases means an average wait of 573 days before a case is resolved. ”

Who is affected and irritated by a backlogged immigration court system? The answer is, everyone involved with the process. From judges and clerks to lawyers and their immigrant clients, the people who work in immigration and the public they serve, the demand for comprehensive immigration reform is strong. The number of immigrants and cases in the system continues increasing. In a recent article on backlogged courts, an immigration judge commented, “In my thirty-one years as a United States immigration judge, I have never had as many people come through my courtroom as I have over the last six years. During this time, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of non-citizens that the United States detains and deports, and the detained number of individuals appearing in immigration courts today is unprecedented.[i]

“The current backlog of 360,000 + cases means an average wait of 573 days before a case is resolved.[ii]

Meanwhile, the comprehensive immigration reform bill, S.744, which is held up in the House by GOP leaders who fail to take action, would significantly improve the situation if it becomes law. In a recent article focused on fixing the immigration court backlog, CIR would, “Increase the number of immigration judges and court personnel, as well s the number of staff attorneys at the Board of Immigration Appeals.[iii]” It is important to note that despite the average number of days it currently takes to process an immigration case is just under 600 days, in large cities like Chicago, with large immigrant populations, the process can take up to three years!

In 2011, when the immigration backlog was critical then, the Department of Homeland Security announced the Prosecutorial Discretion Policy (read more here) to focus on the detention and removal of serious criminals and threats to national security. Despite the Prosecutorial Discretion policy, immigrants are being arrested and are now in the lumbering immigration system.

The people coming into the immigration system, in many cases, are individuals who have lived in the U.S. for many years and are able members of our communities. One individual who became part of the system one day is Lundy Khoy, who when she was one year old, came to the U.S. with her family as refugees from genocide in Cambodia. At 19, in college, Lundy was arrested, charged and convicted for possessing the drug, Ecstasy. She served three months and was released for good behavior and put on probation. Towards the end of her probation, at a regularly scheduled meeting with her probation officer, Lundy was arrested and detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) officers who detained her in prison for almost 9 months.

Many would agree that Lundy Khoy is not a threat to public safety, but now she is part of the system.

People like Lundy Khoy are being arrested in detained by ICE in increased number, in part to policies arranged in the past few years allowing information sharing among law enforcement and ICE who learn of undocumented immigrants and arrest and detain them. As a result, people otherwise “off the radar” are now among those who recently entered the U.S. and were likely stopped at borders. The administration simply cannot keep up with the number of cases and people in the immigration court system.

The problem judges face is simply not being able to spend enough time with any individual person before them in court to make a proper determination whether they should be allowed to remain in the U.S. or be deported. Additionally, many of the immigrants appearing in court cannot afford and do not have lawyers, and there is no right to an appointed lawyer in immigration courts. The large surge in unaccompanied children coming into the U.S. from Central and Latin America do not have attorneys and are functionally clueless about our immigration system and laws.

If you want to learn more about immigration options and how to proceed through the complex and backlogged immigration system, please contact our law firm to request more information.

Attorney KiKi M. Mosley is licensed to practice law by the State of Illinois and Louisiana. She is skilled and experienced in complex immigration law issues including DACA and related options for children arriving in the U.S. For more information about the law firm, please visit www.KiKisLaw.com, and do not forget to “Like” the firm on Facebook and “Follow” on Twitter. You can also review Attorney Mosley’s endorsements on her Avvo profile.

[i] The Hill: Time to fix our immigration courts, by John Gossart Jr., Feb. 26, 2014

[ii] See Gossart article above at para. 7.

[iii] National Immigrant Justice Center: Rethink Immigration: It’s time to fix the immigration court backlog, by Ashley Huebner, Apr. 26, 2013.

Failed immigration reform and leaves immigrant children in great peril and DACA is not a final answer

Undocumented immigrant children face uncertain futures and DACA is not enough enough!

Undocumented immigrant children face uncertain futures and DACA is not enough enough!

Waiting for comprehensive immigration reform has been at the very least, frustrating. More concerning is the danger that young children may face when arriving in the U.S. by themselves, hoping to be allowed to stay in the U.S. and be reunited with relatives in the states. Meanwhile the political games in Congress have more and more Americans absolutely fed up with empty promises that immigration reform is a priority and relief is forthcoming. Children who are brought into the U.S. at young ages have no control over what may happen to them. Furthermore, Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) is unable to manage the large number of child arrivals and the conditions in which undocumented children are being kept is a human rights atrocity.

Here is a general breakdown of the stalled progress of comprehensive immigration reform:

The Senate passed the Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill last July[i]. The bill failed in the House of Representatives and one of the main reasons was GOP concerns for southern border security. Meanwhile, President Obama was urged to take executive action and he ordered a DHS report with recommendations. Last month, the President told DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson to hold off with the findings so House Republicans could pass an immigration reform bill. Recently, House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor was voted out and replaced by a TEA party candidate many believe will not cooperate with existing reform efforts.

White House responded to concerns that immigration reform is now a dead issue: “Our strategy has not changed,” says White House communications director Jennifer Palmieri. “The impetus for action remains on the House.[ii]” While the world watches and waits for House action, young children are at risk.

Young children have no control over the fact they are “illegal.”

Children need many things including safety, shelter, food, clothing and a loving environment. For some, shelter and food are a daily struggle, and safety concerns make daily life extremely challenging for young children in parts of the world. Young children do not understand the idea of “illegal immigration.” In many cases, family members hear reports that the U.S. is a safe haven and if families make it through their treacherous journeys to U.S. soil, their children are allowed to stay. This is not the law and this is not true. Children arriving in the U.S. may, however, be allowed to postpone deportation through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) policy temporarily protecting qualifying children from removal to their native country. DACA only functions to delay deportation.

DACA does not provide actual legal status.

DACA is only a deferment and delay of deportation for the children who qualify for relief under the policy. People need to understand that this program DOES NOT PROVIDE LEGAL STATUS. Even though a child may be able to renew their DACA participant status does not mean they may continue to stay in the U.S. without proper immigration status[iii].

DACA does not go far enough to protect children.  

While young immigrants temporarily may be able to delay being deported, there is not enough protection for innocent children. Recently many children have arrived on U.S. soil alone and unaccompanied by a parent or family member who may not be eligible for DACA relief. Often, neither the children nor family members helping them come to the U.S. understand that DACA participation is contingent upon meeting eligibility criteria and that renewals are NOT AUTOMATICALLY GRANTED.

Attorney KiKi M. Mosley works to help innocent child immigrants avoid being victims of a failed system.

Until the currently out of date immigration system of laws and policies is reformed, we can expect a continuous influx of children who are victims of injustice in their native countries and in the U.S. If you or someone you know needs immigration help, they may contact the Law Offices of KiKi M. Mosley in Chicago, Illinois.

Attorney KiKi M. Mosley is licensed to practice law by the State of Illinois and Louisiana. She is skilled and experienced in complex immigration law issues including DACA and related options for children arriving in the U.S. For more information about the law firm, please visit www.KiKisLaw.com, and do not forget to “Like” the firm on Facebook and “Follow” on Twitter. You can also review Attorney Mosley’s endorsements on her Avvo profile.

[i] POLITICO: Immigration reform bill 2013: Senate passes legislation 68-32. By Min Kim Seng, June 27, 2013.

[ii] ABC News: Obama Waiting for House GOP to Act on Immigration. By Josh Lederman, June 13, 2014.

[iii] United States Immigration and Immigration Services. Consideration for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

A recent increase in immigrant children causes frustration on both sides of U.S. borders

There is an assumption among many Latino communities that children showing up alone at U.S. border will be allowed to go free.

There is an assumption among many Latino communities that children showing up alone at U.S. border will be allowed to go free.

Unaccompanied minors from Central America have been arriving at the United States/Mexico border in unprecedented numbers.   President Obama’s administration has taken measures to manage the influx of children who need shelter, sponsors, legal representation and administrative staff to document the incoming children fleeing gang violence in primarily in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

These children arriving in the U.S. need help, especially legal assistance, as explained in our blog article, Thousands of unaccompanied minor immigrant children need comprehensive immigration reform. If they appear at their court dates, many might not understand the process and can easily become removable to the countries from which they came despite their misunderstanding of the U.S. immigration system and its complex policies.

There is an assumption among many Latino communities that children showing up alone at U.S. border will be allowed to go free.

Violence in Central America is a common reason many families are sending their children north to seek shelter and a safer life in the U.S., often with relatives. The trip through dangerous territory is expensive and many do not make it safely to the other side. Many believe that the U.S. is lenient on children and foreign parents believe their children will be safer after crossing the border.

Lucy Cabrera was terrified during her son and daughter’s journey to the U.S. Cabrera borrowed money to pay guides in Guatemala and Mexico help get her kids safely on U.S. soil. Along the way, her children called from Honduras after gangs threatened them. Finally, they made it to their destination and called their mother from a U.S. detention facility in Arizona. “Thank God they are safe now. It all happened so fast,” said Cabrera[i].

This video that shows the reality of the situation: CNN Video – Border detention of children shames America.

Immigrants arriving in the U.S. to find overcrowding in detention centers. Many children are being dropped off at bus stations with a court date on their Notice to Appear in immigration court. If the immigrants have family in the U.S. they are released and sent on their way with pending court dates at which many will not appear as noted in a recent news report[ii]. The children who remain in detention centers face poor conditions. These border facilities lack “enough food, beds, or sanitary facilities to provide for the children,” CNN has reported.

KiKi M. Mosley is an immigration attorney who can help families with children coming to the U.S. who are given a “Notice to Appear” at immigration court. She helps them apply for relief allowed by immigration law and policy written to give undocumented immigrants options while comprehensive immigration reform is not yet passed in the U.S.

Attorney KiKi M. Mosley is licensed to practice law by the State of Illinois and Louisiana. She is skilled and experienced in complex immigration law issues including applications for temporary immigration relief and adjustments of immigration status. For more information about the law firm, please visit www.KiKisLaw.com, and do not forget to “Like” the firm on Facebook and “Follow” on Twitter. You can also review Attorney Mosley’s endorsements on her Avvo profile.

[i] Washington Post: Immigrant parents urge U.S. officials to help their children flee Central American violence. By Pamela Contable, Jun. 12, 2014.

[ii] CNN, Border detention of children shames America. By Ruben Navarrette, Jun. 12, 2014.

USCIS announces DACA renewal process: First time applications are also accepted

The USCIS press release on DACA renewals states additional guidelines  that participants must meet in addition to the initial criteria for DACA eligibility.

The USCIS press release on DACA renewals states additional guidelines that participants must meet in addition to the initial criteria for DACA eligibility.

On June 5, 2014, Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) Secretary, Jeh Johnson announced the new process for participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) program. Of the initial DACA approvals issued to applicants will start expiring September 2014 so the news of the renewal process is good news for many who need to get moving with their renewal applications.

DACA[i] is a program created by President Obama’s administration in 2012 ordering Customs and Border Protection (“CPB”) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) to use “prosecutorial discretion[ii]” and not detain for removal the approved DACA participants, namely immigrant children who came to the U.S. and still do not have legal status but seek to go to school or work in the U.S.

DHS Secretary Johnson commented on the policy basis for granting and renewing DACA.

The initial grant of a DACA request is for two years and people who meet the initial DACA eligibility guidelines may also apply for a first-time DACA approval as stated in Secretary Johnson’s news release. Additionally, he states, “Despite the acrimony and partisanship that now exists in Washington, almost all of us agree that a child who crossed our boarder illegally with a parent, or in search of a parent or a better life, was not making an adult choice to break our laws, and should be treated differently than adult law-breakers.[iii]

The DACA approved participants Secretary Johnson referenced may request a renewal at least 120 days (4 months) before the expiration of the initially approved DACA period of time, as indicated on DACA approval documents.

The USCIS press release on DACA renewals states additional guidelines[iv] that participants must meet in addition to the initial criteria for DACA eligibility:

  • Did not depart the United States on or after August 15, 2012, without advance parole;
  • Have continuously resided in the United States since they submitted their most recent DACA request that was approved; and
  • Have not been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor or three or more misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

If you or someone you know is eligible to apply for DACA for their first time or they are eligible to renew their status, attorney KiKi M. Mosley can help them review their eligibility and submit the proper form for Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and an Application for Employment Authorization to work in the U.S. It is important to take care to submit timely and properly completed application materials with the proper forms and fees to USCIS through a licensed immigration attorney to prevent rejection of an application for DACA or renewal.

Attorney KiKi M. Mosley is licensed to practice law by the State of Illinois and Louisiana. She is skilled and experienced in complex immigration law. For more information about the law firm, please visit www.KiKisLaw.com, and do not forget to “Like” the firm on Facebook and “Follow” on Twitter. You can also review Attorney Mosley’s endorsements on her Avvo profile.

[i] KiKi M. Mosley Immigration Blog: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and the American Dream: US fund to help DACA Recipients. Feb. 14, 2014.

[ii] KiKi M. Mosley Immigration Blog: Prosecutorial Discretion in Immigration Enforcement. Jan. 24, 2014.

[iii] See USCIS Press Release FN IV below.

[iv] USCIS Press Release: Secretary Johnson Announces Process for DACA Renewal. Release date: Jun. 5, 2014.