What makes an immigrant any less human? What makes them have any less right of a life to live? How do people forget that they're living breathing beings just like everybody else, with families and lives and children they have to take care of, time they can't ever get back and feelings that match everybody else's? That is a question I ask every day to understand the mindset of xenophobes, but I will literally never understand how some mindsets can lack so much empathy.
On Wednesday morning, when the majority of America was thinking about what Halloween costume they were going to wear, or if they had enough candy in their candy bowl for the trick or treaters, hundreds of immigrants were lining up outside of at least 10 different immigration courts with pits in their stomachs and the fear of being deported despite the fact that these court issues were fake. Yep, I said it. You did not hear that wrong. Fake court dates.
Dozens of immigrants across the country traveled to hearings that didn't exist in Los Angeles, Denver, Phoenix, and Orlando. The victims of these corrupt actions initiated by ICE had to travel hundreds of miles, spend a countless amount of money on hotels and traveling fees just to show up to a phantom court date.
"ICE is making up dates and putting them on notices to appear as some sort of empty gesture to a constitutional mandate from the Supreme Court," said Ben Johnson, executive director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
Some dates instructed people to show up at midnight, a scheduling that would realistically never occur in court, while others had dates written on them that don't exist like, September 31st.
Why is this happening? Why are authority figures toying with people's lives in such an unjust manner?
Phantom court dates can be traced back to a June 21st Supreme Court Ruling in a case called Pereira v. Sessions. Pereira was a native-born Brazilian citizen who came to America in 2000 and overstayed his Visa. He received a notice to appear in court in 2006 after a minor motor vehicle arrest, but the notice neglected to mention a time and date to appear in court for his initial removal hearing. He then argued that it did not set off the "stop-time rule."
"According to the 'stop-time rule,' if a person accrues 10 years of continuous physical presence in the U.S., they may be eligible for a form of discretionary relief known as cancellation of removal. By the time Pereira appeared before a judge in 2013, he argued that he'd been in the U.S. for over 10 years and that his 2006 notice to appear with a TBD date and time was invalid. The Supreme Court agreed with him."
Prior to this ruling, when someone was placed in removal proceedings, they were issued a document called a Notice to Appear (NTA). This document usually did not tell the person when to appear for their hearing date because the immigration court's schedule was so backlogged that they didn't know when the court could see them. So the immigration officer would simply write "To be set" on the NTA. The Supreme Court's decision in the Pereira case now states that those NTA documents are probably invalid. If you are in removal proceedings now, you could get your removal proceedings terminated. After this ruling, despite it potentially helping thousands of immigrants who have been ordered deported from the United States or were in removal proceedings from an unfair deportation, ICE began to issue phantom dates.
It is a waste of time money and effort for both the immigrants and the lawyers who also have to put up with this misconduct.
"Attorneys have never seen anything like this," Rubin said. "You used to see TBD on notices to appear date and time sections because ICE didn't have their act together to schedule real dates. Now you can actually see that they can't coordinate and schedule real dates."
Courts exist to uphold justice, guarantee liberty, enhance social order, provide equal protection, and to ensure due process of law. By creating fake court dates ICE is making a mockery out of our justice system and wasting the time effort and money of those involved.
It is unfair to the immigrants involved to live in constant fear of deportation or missing a hearing just to wait in line for hours for a court date that does not exist. The system is being rigged in front of our own eyes and this is not what justice looks like. It is time for these inefficiencies to be reformed. Let's stop TRICKING immigrants and TREAT them the way our court systems expect us to, with equal protection, liberty, and justice.