Justice Department 'Refocusing' Efforts to Recent Border Crossers to Address Crisis

Justice Department 'Refocusing' Efforts to Recent Border Crossers to Address Crisis

The Justice Department will be moving resources to prioritize the adjudication of recent border crossers in removal proceedings and hiring more immigration judges to deal with the cases quickly, Deputy Attorney General James Cole announced Wednesday. 

“We have an obligation to provide humanitarian care for children and adults with children who are apprehended on our borders, but we also must do whatever we can to stem the tide of this dangerous migration pattern.” Cole said in his announcement. “The efforts we are announcing today are intended to address the challenges of this influx in a humane, efficient and timely way.”

Since October more than 52,000 unaccompanied minors and 39,000 women with children have been apprehended illegally crossing the border. The vast majority of the new arrivals have been from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. 

The massive influx has resulted in a multi-agency response to the crisis, including the Justice Department. Tuesday, President Obama requested $3.7 billion in emergency funding from Congress to deal with the situation.

According to the Director of the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review Juan P. Osuna, the shift of resources announced Wednesday will allow the department to focus on the crisis at the border. 

“This refocusing of resources will allow EOIR to prioritize the adjudication of the cases of those individuals involved in the evolving situation at the southwest border,” Osuna said.  “Although our case management priorities are shifting, our immigration judges will continue to evaluate and rule upon cases consistent with all substantive and procedural rights and safeguards applicable to immigration proceedings.”

Additionally EOIR said it would be publishing a regulation allowing for the appointment of more temporary immigration judges and plans to “expand its existing legal access programs, and enhance access to legal resources and assistance for persons in removal proceedings.”

Cole noted that in President Obama’s $3.7 billion emergency funding request that the Justice Department is also seeking funding to help Central American counties combat crime and violence. It will also be working with Mexico to take on smugglers who are transporting the children northward.

The deputy attorney general is visiting the immigrant processing center in McAllen, Texas Wednesday to see the situation himself, he is meeting with regional attorney generals along the border later in the week to consider ways to deal with the criminal smuggling organizations. 

President Obama has declined to go to the border during his fundraising swing in Texas Wednesday and Thursday. The president will, however, be meeting with Texas Gov. Rick Perry in Dallas during his visit.