An immigration judge in Dallas, Texas who handles removal proceedings involving minors was replaced. His name is Deitrich Sims and he has been an immigration judge for the Executive Office for Immigration Review for over 20 years. Most of these juveniles are from Central America and the numbers are increasing due to gang violence in places like El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.
In immigration court, undocumented aliens do not have the right to be represented by an attorney paid for by the Government. They may retain an attorney but at their own cost. Just like adults, the juveniles must either find a private attorney or attend immigration court on their own.
Sims had a reputation for being very strict, intimidating and unyielding with the immigrants, their attorneys, and even with the Government attorneys. He has one of the highest political asylum denial rates. He has denied nearly 84 percent of his cases ranging from 2007-2012. In some cases, he has even ordered immigrants to be deported after the Government attorney has made it clear that they want the case dismissed, closed, or agree that the immigrant has made a cognizable claim for asylum. Minors can apply for political asylum or for visas that are reserved for juveniles in certain circumstances. The problem is that many of these juveniles are detained and cannot afford to hire an attorney.
The Department of Justice should be commended for replacing Sims because pairing a brusque immigration judge with a juvenile immigration docket is not a good match. And Sims is not the only immigration judge with a bad reputation and a propensity for saying, “no”. There are immigration judges throughout the United States who, in addition to rarely granting relief to immigrants, are rude and overbearing. Many immigrants are unfamiliar with the immigration court system and are easily frightened. Immigration judges, who are supposed to be impartial, sometimes act as the prosecutor as well in removal proceedings. They can absolutely sway a case by making the immigrant so uncomfortable that they do not adequately make their case for relief from deportation. Generally, in immigration court, the burden of proof is no the immigrant, not on the Government. This is opposite to the criminal courts where the burden of proof is on the State.
Much more oversight is necessary in immigration courts to make sure the immigration judges are conducting fair and impartial hearings and giving due process to immigrants.