Cases at the Denver Immigration Court at a Standstill for Many

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The U.S. Immigration Court in Denver, Colorado currently has three active Immigration Judges and a docket of over 8000 cases.  The Denver Immigration Court and the foreign nationals living within its jurisdiction are fortunate to have distinguished, highly competent, and thoughtful immigration judges.

Unfortunately, the majority of foreign nationals on the Denver Immigration Court docket are unlikely to have their hearings in front of these judges any time soon.  As we begin 2015, many individuals who were scheduled for their removal hearings at the Denver Immigration Court are receiving notices that their hearings have been cancelled.

These notices have little to do with the executive immigration action announced by President Obama on November 20, 2014.  These notices have everything to do with a serious shortage of immigration judges locally and nationwide, the failure of Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform and the Obama administration’s response to the so-called border crisis that dominated the headlines in the summer of 2014.

In July of 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a directive instructing all Immigration Courts to prioritize the cases of unaccompanied children and families with children who recently arrived at our southern border.  These cases are being expedited by U.S. Immigration Courts nationwide.

As a result of this directive, two of the Denver Immigration Judges have been assigned to hear removal cases of women and children who are detained at the Family Detention Center in Dilley, Texas via video teleconference.  This means that two of our three judges are simply unavailable to hear the cases of those in their jurisdiction and are solely dedicated to hearing the cases of detained women and children, most of whom are seeking asylum protection in the United States. Foreign nationals previously scheduled for hearings in the beginning of 2015 with these two judges are receiving notices that their hearings have been cancelled.

The third Denver Immigration Judge has been tasked to oversee the cases of unaccompanied children in removal proceedings. Since August of 2014, the Denver Court has faced a 500% increase in unaccompanied children’s cases.  These children are placed in removal proceedings at the “front of the line” while the foreign nationals who have been waiting for years to have their cases heard in front of this Denver Immigration Judge face further indefinite delays.  

Many foreign nationals in removal proceedings have pending applications that, if approved, will provide them with lawful permanent residence or asylum protection in the United States. The case cancellations are depriving many of these people of their right to be heard in front of an Immigration Judge.

We are hopeful that we will see Immigration Reform in 2015 and that this reform includes funding for additional immigration judges nationwide. Until then, many foreign nationals will continue their frustrating wait for consideration of their immigration applications.

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Kolko & Associates is a full service immigration and naturalization law firm providing professional legal services to individuals and businesses throughout Colorado, the Rocky Mountain West, the United States, and the World. Our professional staff speaks English, Spanish, Korean, German, and Slovak, and we can arrange for translators in any other language.