DENVER (CBS4) – Immigration judges in Denver will hear hundreds of cases via closed-circuit TV, the federal government has determined.

Judges will review the cases of approximately 600 women and children from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala who are being held in a facility in Artesia, N.M. The additional cases will squeeze an already clogged Denver court system.

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“Denver has one of the worst backlogs in the country,” said James Vandello, a judge who retired recently after hearing immigration cases for more than 30 years.

Judges will decide if immigrants should be deported or if they can proceed through the asylum process. Newly arrived immigrants will receive priority, which will push older cases aside for now. Some cases aren’t just delayed; they’ve been removed from court dockets indefinitely.

“For somebody like me, I think it’s probably bad news because we’re representing people fighting for some sort of relief. And now the cases are going to get stalled,” immigration attorney Bryon Large said.

One of his cases involves domestic violence. “We are now set to go to court in July of 2017,” Large said. “Three years from now.”

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Vandello said hearing cases over closed-circuit TV from hundreds of miles away is tricky.

“So if the judge is looking at a TV screen 10 feet away, it’s not the same as having the respondent 10 feet away where you can see their movements very clearly,” he said. Vandello retired in May and hasn’t been replaced.

There are two immigration courts in the metro area, one in downtown Denver and another operating at an Immigrations and Customs Enforcement facility in Aurora.

Nationwide, there are approximately 40,000 cases in a backlog. Federal authorities have already started to send thousands back to their countries aboard planes. By midsummer, more than 52,000 unaccompanied minors and more than 39,000 adults — most from three Central American countries — have been detained at the United States’ southern border.

 

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