Wave of migrant children threatens to swamp U.S. immigration courts

Father Fabian Arias, (2nd R) an advocate with the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City, an immigration advocacy group, speaks with immigrants following their immigration hearings at the U.S. Federal Building in New York, in this July 10, 2014 file photo.

(Reuters) – A deluge of Central American children pouring into the United States threatens to burst the seams of already overstuffed immigration courts, and President Barack Obama’s steps to ease the crisis are likely to make matters worse rather than better for some, U.S. officials and immigration lawyers said.

“We are reaching a point of implosion, if we have not already reached it,” said Judge Dana Leigh Marks of San Francisco, who has been deciding immigration cases since 1987 and is president of the National Association of Immigration Judges.

The problem, according to judges, lawyers and immigration groups, is the sheer number of cases clogging the courts, due in part to beefed-up law enforcement at the southwestern U.S. border with Mexico.

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U.S. immigration courts have a backlog of 375,373 cases, almost 50,000 more than they faced two years ago, according to Justice Department figures…

Immigrants who have been caught crossing the border illegally are housed inside the McAllen Border Patrol Station in McAllen, Texas July 15, 2014, where they are processed.

Related: San Diego-area community expected to reject illegal immigrant shelter: (Reuters) – A Southern California city could find itself at the center of a nationwide debate over illegal immigration on Tuesday evening when officials there are expected to reject a bid by the U.S. government to open a shelter for unaccompanied migrant children.

The vote by the Planning Commission in Escondido, some 20 miles north of San Diego, comes in response to a surge in children from Central America caught entering the United States, inundating federal processing facilities and creating a backlash in border-state communities.

On Monday, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a law aimed at reducing deportations for immigrants convicted of minor crimes in the state.
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But some California communities and their elected officials have reacted with anger to the flood of migrants.

In Murietta, some 30 miles northwest of Escondido, angry protesters have blocked buses full of suspected illegal immigrants from reaching a processing center there, prompting the U.S. Border Patrol to at least temporarily suspend the operation.

In Escondido, planning commissioners tentatively voted last month to reject a bid by federal authorities to open a shelter for migrant children there amid angry opposition from residents.

The commission was expected to make that vote final during a meeting on Tuesday evening, despite pleas from immigrant rights groups and the American Civil Liberties Union to reverse course.

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