Rep. Henry Cuellar: Border Needs More Immigration Judges, Not a Wall

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(From left) Emcee Rick Casey has a conversation with Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) and Congressman Will Hurd (R-Texas) regarding NAFTA and trade policy at the Pearl Stables.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

“The president is so fixated on a wall,” says U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-San Antonio), shown in a 2017 photo. “It’s not going to stop any of it.”

Nearly one in three migrant family members not held in detention fail to show up to their immigration court hearing, a sign of an overloaded system, U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar said at a press conference Friday.

With a backlog of 860,000 cases in the immigration court system, many of the people not held in detention don’t get a hearing for “four to five years,” said Cuellar, a Laredo Democrat recently briefed by Department of Homeland Security officials.

The ability to remain in the U.S. for that long while their case waits in a backlog creates a significant “pull factor” for migrants who are also facing poverty and violence in their home countries, Cuellar claimed.

“They get a notice to appear, el permiso,” he said. “And with that notice to appear, they can go anywhere. They’re not going to stay in Laredo, they’re not going to stay in San Antonio, the grand, grand majority of them. Because they’ve got family units in Chicago, Miami, New York.”

Cuellar contends that eliminating the immigration courts’ backlog and, in turn, the “pull factor”, would be much more effective at curbing illegal immigration than a border wall.

The one-in-three number Cuellar cited Friday is in line with recent Justice Department statistics over five years that show between 60 and 75 percent of migrants who are not detained do end up attending immigration court proceedings.

Cuellar’s statements come at a time of polarization on immigration to the U.S., with few people understanding the nuances of the immigration system, the asylum process, and the shift in border crossers from single men from Mexico to families from Central America.

“On one extreme, we have the president saying, ‘Put up a wall.’ It doesn’t stop these people,” Cuellar said. “Then you got some other folks that say don’t hold them, don’t hire other [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] officers, and all that.”

Increasingly, migrants are coming from Central America’s Northern Triangle – Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Recently, approximately 73 percent of undocumented migrants came from these three countries, compared to 90 percent from Mexico in 2006, Cuellar said.

Currently, ICE is releasing migrants in Texas more than any other area of the southwest border, according to statistics Cuellar cited.

“The government doesn’t publicize this,” Cuellar said.

Of the 117,500 members of “family units” released from Dec. 21 to Tuesday, 51,500 were released in the “area of responsibility” of ICE’s field office in San Antonio, which includes all Texas border cities and a large swath of Central Texas.

That’s compared to 11,500 for San Diego’s field office, 20,000 for Phoenix, and 34,500 for El Paso.

Typically, migrants are put on buses and sent to cities on and near the border, where they’re often met by volunteers with nonprofits, such as Catholic Charities, who offer assistance.

Cuellar said there needs to be more immigration judges along the southern border who can more quickly process asylum seekers, either accepting their pleas or ordering them to be deported to their home countries.

“You hold them, you give them a hearing,” Cuellar said. “Put more judges on the border, give them a hearing and return them, and that takes away the pull factor that we have.”

Currently, the U.S. has approximately 350 immigration judges operating in approximately 60 courts.

With so many migrants relying on the asylum system, a border wall won’t do anything to help, Cuellar said. That’s because majority of those who cross illegally simply present themselves to Border Patrol or other immigration officials and ask for asylum, he said.

“The president is so fixated on a wall,” Cuellar said. “It’s not going to stop any of it.”

9 thoughts on “Rep. Henry Cuellar: Border Needs More Immigration Judges, Not a Wall

  1. ““The president is so fixated on a wall,” Cuellar said.” It appears Democrats are fixated on hating President Trump.

  2. The assumption that Rep Cuellar has is that illegal immigrants will show up for their court hearings if their court hearing is sooner than later. The reason that illegal immigrants don’t show up is because there is a fairly good chance they will be deported if they show up, not because the court date is so far away. I don’t know where he is getting his information.

  3. Representative Cuellar does not need to represent the San Antonio area. He is not helping the situation at all by the way he is thinking. Then catholic charities is using all the donations received for the illegals and not for the poor people of San Antonio.
    The bottom line is that democrats just hate President Trump and will do and say anything to keep their message going.
    They need to accept the reality of a crisis at the US border and fund the wall.

    • The wall will not stop people who arrive and LEGALLY request asylum. The asylum request needs to be dispositioned in near real-time instead of the multi-year backlong and wait.

      • The issue is that most of these people cross the border at places other than ports of entry, then turn themselves in to border patrol. They do not request asylum legally by going to a port of entry. A wall would absolutely work.

        • No. There is nothing legally to stop someone from requesting asylum even if they crossed somewhere other than a port of entry. In fact the current system rewards those who cross the border outside of a port entry. Currently border officials on both sides of the US Mexico border can turn back asylum seekers at the port of entry. Crossing illegally and turning yourself in does not stop the asylum process. Wall or no wall is not the solution to this particular problem. Forcing real time determination of asylum status would stop mass crossings and stop the arbitrary entry at port of entry. The correct thing to do is remove any incentive to crossing illegally AND end the backlogs that allow asylum seekers to remain here for years while their status is reviewed and approved.

  4. I am amazed that all the comments above have the same perspective I do from Bexar Count Preceint 4107 in Windcrest and from the nams most of them seem to be Hispanics/Latinos.

    As a WASP, Deplorable, a none victim group who is categorized as a “racist” since birth (12-03-1941). Through in that I am a Male and have never disputed my biological gender, I am see as a poria, guilty until proven innocent by a 100% vote by progressive victimhood groups.

    I was gerrymandered into Rep. Cuellar’s Congressional District, first from 2001-2003 and (permanently?) since 2011. State wise my representative is from the East side of CoSA and my state senator is from mostly the west side of CoSA inside Loop 410. In this perspective, I am in the minority and the letters I get from US Rep Cuellar and State Rep. Melendez never address my questions and are just plane fabrications of actuality (i.e., lies).

    There are NO responses from my state Rep. Gervin Hawkins.

    Talk about taxation without representation!

  5. Cuellar is surprisingly on point with the call for more judges. We should have real-time asylum claim processing that results in a near immediate decision. This whole nonsense of catch and release or housing people indefinitely in private, for-profit prisons is costly and ineffective.

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