U.S. Law Center

Some question legality of fast-track hearings for asylum seekers

Many people who immigrate to Southern California are trying to escape less than pleasant living conditions in their native countries. In some circumstances, such people may be granted asylum and allowed to legally stay in the United States. Asylum protections also apply to a person’s children and spouse. Those who are granted asylum are permitted to apply for a green card after one year, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

As with many facets of the immigration process, representation by an attorney can play a crucial role in petitioning for asylum. However, when those who enter the country without securing the appropriate documentation are caught, they are sometimes placed in detention centers where access to legal counsel can be next to impossible, reports NBC News. Because of an expedited hearing process meant to deal with the massive influx of families from certain Central American countries such as Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, many people are being ordered to return to their home countries without ever speaking to a lawyer.

This is important since many of those being deported may actually qualify for asylum. A recent study found that when asylum seekers had legal representation, their cases took more than 200 days longer to be resolved and 40 percent were granted the ability to remain in the U.S. However, it has been reported that approximately 70 percent of detainees go before a judge without counsel.

Some are crying foul about the process, since citizenship is not a determining factor in deciding who is entitled to the due process of law. Court-appointed lawyers are not available for those who are detained since the immigration hearing is a civil and not a criminal matter. It remains to be seen whether or not changes to the hearing process will be implemented in the future.

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