By Amy Mullen
San Francisco – On Tuesday, January 21, the Immigration Court of San Francisco had approximately 20 individuals heard in the courtroom of Judge Julie Nelson. These immigrant defendants were teleconferenced into the courtroom from their respective detention centers.
The court used an interpreter to assist each individual while their case was heard. The interpreter helped introduce the case then advised the immigrant what happened during the proceeding and what to expect next, but did not translate the discussions between the judge, prosecutor and public defender. However, the majority of the cases involved the judge and public defender carefully explained the person’s options, even when the defendant was adamant that they just wanted to sign papers and return to their country of origin.
There was a trend of individuals requesting to bypass the lengthy and arduous immigration court process by signing away their rights to appeal and requesting immediate deportation. A few individuals cited the length of their proceedings and continued detention as reasons they no longer wanted to wait for the process to pan out. Many of these people have immediate family in the US, which would provide them additional options to be able to stay in the US.
The overarching theme of the day was the lingering question that remained as to whether or not the SF Public Defender’s Office would retain their existing clients after the closure of the Mesa Verde Detention Facility.
Judge Nelson’s response was underwhelming and provided no reassurance that any clients would be able to retain their representation. She explained that she was equally as uninformed and in the dark as everyone else, but recommended the public defenders continue to follow up with the Department of Justice for any updates.