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Immigration "rocket docket" denying immigrants hearings

The U.S. immigration court system is rife with clerical errors and lack of notice, according to immigration attorneys and others who have worked in the court system. As a result, immigrants living in Indiana and elsewhere are at risk for being deported "in absentia" without knowing it.

In November 2018, the Trump administration created a fast-track deportation docket called the "rocket docket." The purpose of the program, which operates out of 10 U.S. immigration courts, is to expedite immigration hearings and deportations for newly arrived migrants, many of whom have come from Central America. However, critics of the system say it is plagued by errors, and the mistakes are causing migrants to be denied fair hearings.

For example, one Honduran asylum seeker who was awaiting word of a hearing date received a deportation notice in the mail instead. With the help of a lawyer, she discovered that her case file was riddled with errors, including a claim that she had supposedly been served with a hearing notice before it was even printed. She says she never received the notice. Immigrant advocacy groups report dozens of other similar cases. While the Trump administration claims many immigrants are attempting to dodge hearings so they can stay in the country illegally, a former immigration judge told the Associated Press that most immigrants who miss their first hearing show up for their second one if given the chance, proving that they aren't trying to hide.

Immigrants facing deportation may find it helpful to discuss their case with an immigration attorney. An attorney familiar with current events in immigration law might help immigrants navigate the complex U.S. immigration system and do everything possible to help them obtain a visa. If an immigrant has already been detained, legal counsel may work to win his or her release.

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