Groups sue U.S. to stop deportation hearings by videoconference in New York


In June of last year, immigration and customs enforcement New York field office made an announcement. It would no longer take detained migrants to court hearings in person. Instead it would hold hearings exclusively through video-teleconferences on Tuesday. The Brooklyn defender services and other legal organizations filed a class action lawsuit against ice challenging this move. Joining me in our studios is Andrea science an attorney with the New York immigrant family unity project at Brooklyn defender services. They provide free lawyers to detained low income immigrants. Thanks for being with us. Andrea thank you for having me. So can you tell us why you filed this lawsuit? What's wrong with hearings by teleconference? So what's happening? Now is that instead of in years prior where our clients were sitting next to us at these hearings that determine whether or not they're going to be free going to be back with their families are going to be. Deported to a country where they possibly face persecution or harm. They are being beamed in by television show, and it's simply not a fair hearing is the bottom line. They are not giving given the opportunity to fully participate in their hearings to communicate with our council to see the evidence against them. And we think it's fundamentally wrong and unfair for the most important person in the hearing to be the only one who's not in the room for people who don't know how it works. Can you explain how it's used and how much now what's happening right now at Baruch is that every single hearing is being done by video. So it's not just for a routine scheduling conference, you know, come back next month. All the here's a smiling deadline people are appearing by video further. Bond hearings were they're being asked to testify for their own freedom for hearings were were determining whether they're mentally competent enough to even understand what the hearing is about. And most importantly for hearings that are about their entire defense to remove all including whether they can stay permanently with their families or whether they have a case for asylum. So every single. Kind of hearing is being done on video, and what's the justification for why the are using video teleconferencing? Well, the agency has told us a couple of different things they've told us that they had to do. So for security purposes, there's been protested Eric in the past and that has not stopped the production of people safely to court. And they've also basically told us that it's efficient, and we think that due process is more important than efficiency. And that in fact, as we explain the lawsuit we've had enormous inefficiencies from this policy because the technology has been so problematic that we've had to adjourn hearing after hearing, can you give us an examples to tell us how you've seen this practice play out with with your clients. Sure. I think there's a couple of different categories of how this has hurt our clients. The first is that they are in detention for a really long time where we can't hold their hearing properly. The government has maintained that this is a fish. I'm actually the opposite has happened where we've had days where the hearing couldn't even start because we couldn't connect by video. We couldn't get the interpreter online or. Something happened during the hearing where we needed to ask our client. What do you think you look at this evidence? What we need to take a decision in this moment, but we can't confidentially speak to our client in that moment. So we have to adjourn the entire hearing. And then drive out to jail the next day and talk to them and come back and do it. So we've had clients who had to sit in detention for another two or three months because of what happened in the hearing that's one category. And then when we go and see them we've had dozens of clients tell us, I don't know what happened. Can you? Explain it to me. I couldn't hear I didn't understand what the judge said. And the other category is just that we think that the judges aren't able to assess our clients credibility, or what's really going on with them over a screen and the complaint talks about some of those clients in the lawsuit, including a client who had to talk about his sexual orientation over a video in a situation where he didn't feel like it was confidential, and you can imagine how that affects your -bility to tell your story in another client who had serious, cognitive, limitations and sobbed. Uncontrollably during his hearing, and we couldn't finish the hearing in time and it got adjourned. And in the end, the judge denied both of those cases, and we feel like

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