Shutdown taking a toll on immigration enforcement in Minnesota

January 10, 2019 05:28 AM

The fallout from the partial federal government shutdown is taking a toll on immigration enforcement in Minnesota.

Notices posted on the Department of Justice website indicate some deportation hearings will continue, but many more won't. 

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"The delay affects everybody," said Anne Carlson, an attorney with the Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid Immigrant Law Project with an office in downtown Minneapolis.

"It's hard living in limbo."

RELATED: Shutdown could have impact at food shelves

Immigration Customs Enforcement agents, federal judges and courthouse staffers have either been furloughed or forced to work without pay. 

They all play roles enforcing justice at the Federal Immigration Courthouse in Bloomington. 

It is the only one in Minnesota and it handles thousands of cases in the state and from the Dakotas. 

It's called the Bishop Henry Whipple Federal Building, and is commonly known as Fort Snelling's Deportation Court. 

RELATED: Trump walks out of shutdown session with Dems - 'Bye-bye'

According to Carlson, there are a variety of reasons people end up in immigration court. They could be refugees, they may have entered the country illegally, their status could be in question, or they may have been arrested for a crime.  

Federal records show there are currently 8,013 cases pending in Minnesota. The vast majority of the individuals involved are not in custody, which means those hearings are being pushed back indefinitely. 

Carlson said that includes two migrants her nonprofit agency is trying to keep in the U.S. They've been waiting years for their day in court, and that was supposed to be this coming Monday.

"The court is taking it day-by-day," she said. "Obviously not knowing when the shutdown is going to end."

The remaining 125 migrants in custody are the only hearings and deportations moving forward right now.

"It's terrible to witness and terrible to see that happen to anybody," Carlson said.

Immigration experts noted the justice system was already backlogged, and this will only make it more congested - putting more pressure on judges.

The stoppage has also interrupted a program employers use to check if prospective hires are U.S. citizens and eligible to work. 

It's a database called E-Verify, but it's now offline.

 

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Beth McDonough

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