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Inside an Immigration Courtroom and Inside the Judge’s Head 

October 6, 2016
Plain English Version



The action takes place in the courtroom. Asylum seekers wait to find out if they can stay in the United States. Some will have to go back to their home country.

Their fate takes about fifteen minutes to decide in the courtroom.

For most, this is the first time they have been in an American courtroom. The judges speak English. Most of the people getting a hearing do not speak English. There are interpreters. But it is still a legal proceeding. The rules are hard to understand and follow. Confusion is common.

What about the judges? How do they feel about the people before them? How do they feel about people who do not look like them? How do they feel about people from other backgrounds?

The courts are crowded. The backlogs are huge. The judges do not have enough staff. It is a tough situation for all. Most of the cases do not have their own lawyers. The government always has a lawyer

A big problem is prejudice. Judges admit they bring certain attitudes to the hearings. Some help for them is coming. Many judges will now get training. They will learn how to recognize when they are not fair and what they can do about it. They will learn tricks to help them see the people before them as individuals.

Some judges are flexible. Some judges are strict. Judges have to find out if the people before them are telling the truth. Customs in other countries are different. It is hard to know what the right thing to do is.

If you are not convincing, the judge will start a process to deport you. Those who look at the court say there is no way to avoid making mistakes. Many judges quit the job because of the pressure.

One idea is to give the Border Patrol more power to deport on the spot. An observer said this would reduce the backlog. Immigration advocates do not think this is a good idea.

No matter what some politicians say about America, a great many people want to get here.


Source: The New York Times October 4, 2016

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