Monday, June 27, 2022
New OIG Report: Limited-Scope Inspection and Review of Video Teleconference Use for Immigration Hearings
The Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Justice issued a new report this month, Limited-Scope Inspection and Review of Video Teleconference Use for Immigration Hearings. The report, which is available here, evaluates the use of videoconferencing in EOIR's "tent courts" in Brownsville and Laredo, Texas. These "tent courts," which operated in an expanse of inter-connected tents and shipping containers, rely exclusively on televideo to adjudicate the cases of noncitizens seeking asylum in the MPP program, also commonly known as "Remain in Mexico."
The OIG makes a number of recommendations for improving video hearings, including improved training, guidance, interpretation, and technical capacity. Among other findings, the report concludes:
"[B]ased on our observations and discussions with hearing participants, we believe that it was potentially difficult at times for respondents at the IHF to follow the hearing process and clearly differentiate the distinct roles of certain participants—particularly the immigration judge as neutral adjudicator versus the DHS trial attorney litigating the removal—due in part to the positioning of the participants on the video monitor. We identified several areas with potential to improve the quality and efficiency of virtual immigration hearings. For example, the majority of immigration judges, attorneys, and interpreters we interviewed who expressed an opinion on the subject believed simultaneous interpretation to be preferable and more efficient than consecutive interpretation, though EOIR is currently limited in its ability to provide simultaneous interpretation for remote hearings. In addition, we identified areas where additional training or information technology resources may be necessary to adequately support EOIR’s expanding use of remote hearings. Further, we found that EOIR must continue efforts to improve its processing of the volume of paper documents that may be filed for immigration cases, particularly those involving MPP respondents. Lastly, we found that EOIR must ensure both that respondents have adequate access to information on their rights in the immigration process and that it is meeting requirements for transparency and public access for immigration hearings, including those conducted virtually.