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Due process dilemma: Immigration courts inside of prisons

There are federal immigration courts stretching across the United States from New York to California, and in many of the states in between. There are 58 of the courts, including 19 that are inside (or on the property of) prisons and detention centers.

That means these courts for immigration hearings are inside of prison walls; prisons and detention centers that dictate the rules on who is allowed inside. In one case recently documented in a newspaper report, an Ecuadorian immigrant needed his 12-year-old son to testify on his behalf at a hearing.

Because the prison does not allow anyone under age 16 to enter, the boy was not allowed to speak to the court. The man was held an additional 6 months behind bars simply because of the regulation.

"In what other court system in the world does the warden of the prison decide who can be a witness or not?" an immigration attorney said.

The immigration courts inside of prisons are contracted by Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

According to the U.S. Department of Justice Executive Office of Immigration Review, there are two such immigration courts in New York. One in Fishkill and another in Ulster; another is just a few minutes' drive from Staten Island, in Elizabeth, New Jersey. In these facilities, potential witnesses can be denied access so that they can testify, or be intimidated by the prison setting and stay away.

Unsurprisingly, ICE claims all immigrants held for hearings are accorded "appropriate due process under the law."

For those facing a deportation hearing, a skilled immigration attorney can help ensure protection of your rights at every step of the process.

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