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Could new Justice Department memo mean more deportations?

When it comes to immigration cases, sometimes the time an attorney has between meeting their client and the immigration hearing is so short, that they do not have enough time to prepare their case. In the past, when this happened an attorney might ask for a continuance. However, Louisville residents may be concerned to hear that the Justice Department, under orders from the Trump Administration, has asked immigration judges to grant fewer continuances.

In the past, these continuances were common, and could be issued as a means to delay proceedings so that each side has a chance to prepare a strong case. However, it has been posited that these continuances were given so freely and so frequently that they have exacerbated already overburdened immigration courts. Now it has been determined that such continuances should only be granted if it can be demonstrated that there is either good cause or that such a continuance is clearly based on case law.

The number of immigration cases awaiting their day in court has grown two-fold since 2011 to over 600,000. This means that it takes, on average, two years for an immigrant to have their case decided upon. The Justice Department reports that, from fiscal year 2006 to fiscal year 2015, the number of continuances granted went up 23 percent. The Justice Department aims to address this backlog without affecting the immigrants' due process rights, by cracking down on inappropriate continuances.

Immigration attorneys in general believe that the overburdened court system is a major problem. However, there is the concern that the Justice Department's recent move regarding continuances will lead to more deportations. Continuances are not a right under the Immigration and Nationality Act. Instead, they are part of federal regulations. Immigration attorneys often need a continuance, since current law does not give them much time to perform discovery and prepare their case.

Time will tell what effect the Justice Department's changes to continuances will have on deportations and other immigration proceedings. It may streamline the process, but at what cost? In the end, it is important that an immigrant's rights are not infringed upon. Those who have questions about this issue may want to discuss the matter with their attorney.

Source: Time, "Undocumented Immigrants May Get Less Time to Make Their Case," Tessa Berenson, Aug. 16, 2017

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