Denver Immigration Court Judges to Resume Hearing Certain Local “Non-Priority” Removal Cases

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In July of 2014, as a response to the so-called “surge” of foreign nationals arriving at the southern border, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a directive instructing all U.S. Immigration Courts to prioritize the following removal cases: 1) recently arrived unaccompanied children 2) recently arrived families with children released on an Alternative to Detention program; 3) detained families with children; 4) other detained foreign nationals in removal proceedings. For purposes of the DOJ directive, individuals in removal proceedings with a Notice to Appear (NTA) filed with the U.S. Immigration Court after May 1, 2014 are considered “recent arrivals.”

Foreign nationals in removal proceedings who do not fall within one of the categories listed above are considered a “non-priority” case.

As a result of the DOJ order, between September 2014 and May 1, 2015, two of the three Immigration Judges at the U.S. Immigration Court in Denver, Colorado were assigned to hear removal cases via video teleconference of women and children who are detained at the Family Detention Centers in Artesia, New Mexico and Dilley, Texas. In order to allow these Immigration Judges to hear the priority cases at the Family Detention Facilities, the “non-priority” removal cases that were previously on the dockets for these two Immigration Judges between September 2014 and May 2015, were re-scheduled until November 19, 2019.

Beginning May 1, 2015, the court docket for the Dilley Family Detention Center will be re-assigned to the Miami, Florida Immigration Court and the Denver Court will no longer oversee these cases. The Artesia Detention Facility was closed in December 2014.

The two Immigration Judges previously assigned to the Family Detention Center docket will resume hearing certain “non-priority” cases in Denver. However, these Judges will both also be assigned to oversee certain cases on the priority docket at the U.S. Immigration Court at the GEO Immigration Detention Facility in Aurora, Colorado. Therefore, many of the individual merits hearings on the “non-priority” dockets for these two Judges will continue to be rescheduled until November 29, 2019.

The third Immigration Judge in Denver, Colorado has been assigned to oversee the priority removal cases of unaccompanied children and families on the ATD program. In order to accommodate these priority cases, certain non-priority cases on this Judge’s docket have been and continue to be re-scheduled until November 29, 2019.

Many foreign nationals in removal proceedings that are considered “non-priority” have pending applications that, if approved, will provide them with lawful permanent residence or asylum protection in the United States. The protracted delays and rescheduling to November 19, 2019 are depriving many of these people of their right to be heard in front of an Immigration Judge.

We continue 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 applications for immigration benefits before our Immigration Courts.

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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.