Friday, May 27, 2016
Guest post by Alejandro Cuautli, student at Northern Illinois University College of Law
At the Otay Mesa Detention Facility, we met with Judge McSeveney, one of the immigration judges that presides over hearings for detained immigrants. Entering the courtroom, one can see how small it is, just having enough space for the detainee, counsel, the judge and family members who may sit at the back of the courtroom.
Judge McSeveny gave us his point of view of the proceedings are handled in his courtroom. He is in a division that hears cases of detained immigrants that have mental health problems and makes sure that their needs are met. Judge McSeveny explained the rights that immigrants have, such as having a bond hearing after they have been detained for 180 days.
He made it seem that detained immigrants have a decent chance of getting relief, but only those that have been consistent with their story from the start. For those immigrants that have changed their story from the moment they are detained by border patrol and then speak to an asylum officer, the chances of any relief are decreased drastically.
While the consistency of the detained immigrant's story is one factor affecting their chance at relief, another factor is access to counsel. Detainees have the right to counsel at their expense. I feel that this is the breaking for most detained immigrants, especially those that have been detained at the border. They have no clue of how or where to hire an attorney, nor have the means to afford one.