Lawmakers Raise Questions On Suspended ‘Know Your Rights’ Program At Senate Subcommittee Hearing

The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Border Security and Immigration discussed improving courts and addressing a massive backlog of cases

Foreign nationals are arrested during a targeted enforcement operation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement aimed at immigration fugitives, re-entrants and at-large criminal aliens in Los Angeles on Feb. 7, 2017.

A Senate subcommittee hearing on improving the immigration court system comes after a “know your rights” program was suspended last week and case quotas were set for immigration courts. 

Hiring more judges and hiring them faster were given as ways to fix the backlog of some 680,000 cases in immigration courts.

At the hearing, Democratic Senator Dick Durbin criticized last week’s freeze of a legal orientation program. 

“It makes no sense,” Durbin said, “If we’re sitting here trying to reduce backlog, you’ve just increased the backlog by denying basic information to these people before they get into the process.”

James McHenry is Director at the Executive Office for Immigration Review, the office that oversees immigration courts. 

During his testimony he defended the suspension of the program as a way to determine its efficiency. 

In the Houston area, the Legal Orientation Program served some 6,100 immigrants in three detention centers in 2017. 

The Department of Justice announced last week that the program will be temporarily halted on April 30th.


Elizabeth Trovall

Elizabeth Trovall

Immigration Reporter

Elizabeth Trovall is an immigration reporter for Houston Public Media. She joined the News 88.7 team after several years abroad in Santiago, Chile, where she reported on business, energy, politics and culture. Trovall's work has been featured on NPR's Morning Edition and All Things Considered, Marketplace, Here and Now, Latino...

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