Due process violated in Omaha Immigration Court, report says

Feb. 9, 2024, 3:45 p.m. ·

gavel resting on a wooden block
DOJ said there were flaws the ACLU's report on Omaha Immigration Court. ACLU observed more than 500 cases from April to August 2023. (Archived photo)

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Despite the law requiring the government to accommodate interpretation, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Nebraska said that doesn’t always happen in Omaha Immigration Court.

A new report by the ACLU said Omaha Immigration Court violates due process in many cases.

Through a review of 534 “Master Calendar Hearings” last year, which is essentially a pretrial hearing, the ACLU of Nebraska said the court didn’t provide appropriate interpretation 33 times.

Pretrials determine the immigrants’ plea to charges, upcoming deadlines and hearing dates, and much more.

In the 32 cases involving a Central American Indigenous speaker, they were given interpretation just six times, according to the ACLU’s report.

If the no interpreter present speak the person's language, the ACLU said the court is supposed to call the appropriate interpreter or reschedule the hearing.

ACLU of Nebraska Legal Director, Rose Godinez, said there are overarching immigration issues at play.

A proud daughter of immigrants, she said current conditions amount to constitutional rights being violated.

“So what we have observed with this project is that the immigration system is not working for anyone,” Godinez said.

Godinez said she hopes the ACLU’s findings grab the attention of federal and state lawmakers.

Courts are backlogged with immigration cases, Dylan Severino is the lead author of the study, said. But he said judges aren’t typically reading each person their rights.

“Judges advised people of their rights in only 18% of the observed hearings. Most often this involves reading rights to everyone in a group instead of individually,” Severino said.

Attorney representation wasn’t available for many immigrants. The report said, “In 99 of 534 (19%) observed hearings, the immigrant was not represented by an attorney.”

The average length of pretrial was 3.9 minutes.

Under all of these circumstances, the ACLU argued that due process would likely be compromised.

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review — the supervisors of immigration courts — declined to comment in time for this story.