HIAS Delegation Journal, Day 2: San Diego Immigration Court Observation

When we left the detention center, we travel to downtown San Diego to attend a hearing at the immigration court. We got into the courtroom to observe and were struck by the amount of immigrants without attorneys.

The immigrants without attorneys were clearly terrified. They didn’t seem to understand exactly what was happening to them and quite a few of them were in the MPP program. The questions they asked the judge were questions the judge had a difficult time answering. They wanted to know why the Judge was returning them to Mexico to wait for their immigration court hearing when they were trying to apply for asylum inside the US. The judge made it clear that the DHS – Department of Homeland Security – was responsible for that, not him. The judge tried to get the DHS attorney to give more specifics on what would be happening to them after their hearing, which of course, the DHS refused to do. The DHS attorney kept repeating, “I have no way of knowing what will happen.” The judge would ask for potential scenarios and she would say, “They could be returned to Mexico, be detained and sent to a detention center, or be paroled in.”

Between the tearful mothers surrounded by their children in the court room, their inability to understand what was happening to them because they didn’t have an attorney and fact that they didn’t speak English, I was amazed that the MPP program was still in place.