Opinion

Trump Shutdown Over Border Security Will Apparently Keep Undocumented Immigrants in U.S. Longer

President Donald Trump dug in his heels last week on the issue of the wall along the Mexican border that he promised during his 2016 campaign, resulting in a government shutdown that’s been going on for days. Ironically, however, Trump’s determination to keep undocumented immigrants out of the United States will almost certainly result in many of them remaining here longer.

Immigrants and immigration attorneys alike were caught by surprise Wednesday morning when they went to scheduled hearings in immigration courts all over the country. They showed up only to find out that, due to the shutdown, their cases were postponed without prior notice from the body that oversees them, the Department of Justice’s Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR).

People were not happy.

It wasn’t until hours into the day when EOIR sent out the following notice:

During the current lapse in appropriations, the following operating status is in place for EOIR:

Detained docket cases will proceed as scheduled.

Non-detained docket cases will be reset for a later date after funding resumes. Immigration courts will issue an updated notice of hearing to respondents or, if applicable, respondents’ representatives of record for each reset hearing.

EOIR tweeted an announcement on Friday saying that immigration courts would be closed on Monday due to an executive order from President Trump. No such announcement was tweeted about Wednesday. Of course, that could be due to the fact that Friday’s announcement came hours before the shutdown. The EOIR website has a notice saying, “Due to the lapse in appropriations, Department of Justice websites will not be regularly updated.” Maybe the same applies to their social media accounts. I emailed EOIR about this, and—not surprisingly—no one responded.

Now, the fact that the government didn’t tell people about this is awful, but the reason for delaying their cases is pretty inconsistent with the Trump administration’s hardline stance on immigration. Only “essential” government functions continue during the ongoing shutdown. The reason why non-detainee cases aren’t being heard right now is because they have not been deemed essential.

Who makes that determination? President Donald Trump himself.

That’s right, the man who blasted the Obama administration for letting so many defendants in illegal border crossing cases go free, whose own administration insisted on locking up every single offender, resulting in family separations, doesn’t seem to think prosecuting all of these cases is essential.

That means that all of the people in these cases who are being prosecuted for being in the country illegally will now get to remain here longer in order stick around for their next court date. In some situations that could be months, in others, where judges have a larger case load, it could be years.

From a president who describes the undocumented immigrant population as being largely comprised of dangerous criminals, this makes no sense whatsoever.

Ronn Blitzer is the Senior Legal Editor of Law&Crime and a former New York City prosecutor. Follow him on Twitter @RonnBlitzer.

[Image via Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images]

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

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