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Video hearings become more common for detained children

The images of detained immigrant children have sparked concerns in Indiana and across the country, and some worry that the increased use of video hearings to process their cases may impose additional challenges. Video hearings, rather than in-person court sessions, are being used in more cases involving immigrant children, often those who are held in detention or who are unaccompanied minors. Many of the hearings have taken place in Houston while the judge hearing the cases is in Atlanta. However, some advocates believe that this policy may be expanded nationwide.

The hearings have included technical glitches, including problematic video and audio crossing multiple channels, bringing in sounds from other hearings happening simultaneously. These types of technical challenges led to delays in many of the children’s immigration hearings in Houston. These children are often very young and may not have full access to an attorney nor fully comprehend their rights under immigration law, advocates said. They said that the video hearings may be even more alienating and make it more difficult for children to understand the process they are going through.

Some children have already had video hearings, especially if they are held in detention centers that are hours away from immigration courts, but now they are being held even in busy immigration court areas. So far, officials did not say why they believed the remote hearings were necessary, given the presence of an active, in-person immigration court. Approximately one-quarter of all immigration court hearings were held for both children and adults over video conference in the first half of January.

Children seeking asylum in the United States face severe challenges, from separation from their loved ones to difficulty accessing legal support and representation. An immigration law attorney may help asylum seekers and immigrants of all ages to protect their rights.