Justice Delayed: My Journey Inside the Secret Tent Courts Where Refugees are Being Denied Dignity and Due Process, 0220 KSBJ, 89 J. Kan. Bar Assn 2, 6 (2020)

AuthorBy Rekha Sharma-Crawford.
Position89 J. Kan. Bar Assn 2, 6 (2020)

Justice Delayed: My Journey Inside the Secret Tent Courts Where Refugees are Being Denied Dignity and Due Process

89 J. Kan. Bar Assn 2, 6 (2020)

Kansas Bar Journal

February, 2020

A First Hand Report

By Rekha Sharma-Crawford.

Courts are supposed to be about due process, fairness and the rule of law. Yet, I did not find justice at work in the canvas tents set up near the southern border to house secretive immigration courts. Advocates had, for months, warned of unconstitutional treatment of migrants and fundamental breakdowns in the judicial process.

Given the stakes, I had to see it for myself.

Early in December 2019, as a Kansas City attorney fighting for the rights of immigrants and refugees, I few to Brownsville, Texas and crossed into Matamoros, Mexico where hundreds of Central American migrants are waiting for their turn to see an immigration judge. Under the “Migrant Protection Protocol” created by President Donald Trump, people feeing persecution and seeking asylum protections from the United States are forced to wait in Mexico until their cases are resolved by an immigration judge. Until recently, the government adhered to international standards on the treatment of refugees, allowing asylum seekers to live in the country while waiting for a final immigration decision. The MPP policy is a radical departure from long-standing asylum procedure that puts migrants at risk of new violence.

In Brownsville, I saw that the injustices do not end there.

On hearing days, Customs and Border Protection agents allow migrants to cross from Matamoros to Brownsville into an unnamed city of tents. Te canvas cloaks beige shipping containers, which have been converted into “courtrooms.” Unlike those found across the United States, which are open to the public, this “courthouse” is inaccessible except to a limited few. Security guards allow only those with official, approved business to pass through the chain-link gates and locked doors. Te public is barred from inspecting its government at work. I got in only because I was assisting another attorney with her work.

As I entered a double-wide container room, I noticed a gnawing in the pit of my stomach that something here was just not right. A huge black screen was the first indication the judge was not going to be in the room at all. In front of the television were a small table and two chairs for the attorney and her client t o sit...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT