Trump administration using video hearings for detained migrant children: report

Trump administration using video hearings for detained migrant children: report
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The Trump administration is using video hearings to expedite legal proceedings for some detained migrant children, a move criticized by immigrant advocates who say the approach puts minors at a disadvantage.

The Associated Press reported on Thursday that the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) launched the video hearings several weeks ago and has conducted teleconferences with dozens of migrant children across the country.

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The program bills itself as an attempt to get children in front of judges faster while saving money. A record 13,000 migrant children are in detention awaiting a hearing, the AP reported.

“If at all possible, ORR does not want children to stay longer than necessary in our facilities while waiting for their immigration case to be heard,” ORR spokeswoman Lydia Holt told the AP, adding that her office has recommended about 75 more detained children for video hearings. 

Attorneys and immigration advocates say the children could be disadvantaged by video teleconferencing because they are less personal and rife with technology-related disruptions.

Judge Ashley Tabaddor, who's president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, told the AP that video teleconference equipment is “very, very difficult to work with.”

“There is nothing that can substitute for an in-person hearing,” Tabaddor said.

The technical difficulties include calls being dropped, freezing screens and difficulty with audio levels.

Ingrid Eagly, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, said adults who participate in video hearings are more likely to be deported than those who appear in person, according to her research.

Eagly told the AP that detainees are often able to communicate more clearly and understand the situation better when they are in-person.

The Trump administration created a crisis for migrants earlier this year by implementing a "zero tolerance" policy that separated thousands of children from their parents at the border. Courts mandated that all children separated under the policy must be returned to their parents.