Immigration courts are speeding up hearings for the tens of thousands of Central American children caught on the U.S. border after criticism that the backlogged system is letting immigrants stay in the country for years while waiting for their cases to be heard.
There are 375,000 cases before the immigration courts and many immigrants wait months or years for a hearing. Instead of bumping children to the back of that long line, the courts are now giving each child an initial court hearing within three weeks, according to the Justice Department's Executive Office for Immigration Review. A spokeswoman for the courts didn't answer questions about how many children's hearings had been set under the new plan, or which courts had scheduled additional hearings.
Immigration lawyers have long sought a speedier process to prevent immigrants from having to wait years for an answer on their asylum or green card applications. Now, the concern is the opposite: that the courts are moving so quickly that the children might not have enough time to make a case that they should be allowed to remain in the country legally.