Elvis had a simple request for the judge. Could she call his lawyer again?
“There’s no reason for me to call back, sir. I called and he didn’t answer,” Judge Joy Merriman told the Guatemalan detainee who was attending the hearing as part of his asylum application. “I’m not going to give him a second chance.” His lawyer had asked to appear in court by phone, which the judge allowed. She had called the lawyer and gotten his voicemail.
“The court has very limited time and resources,” the judge said. “I still have 40 more cases this afternoon. My interpreter, the Department of Homeland Security’s attorney, my legal assistant, they all need to take a lunch break, because this is a very heavy docket.”
It was a small moment in a long sequence of indignities that Elvis had faced since he fled gang threats at home and was picked up by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents while crossing the Texas border with his then-pregnant wife Wendy in February of 2019. He was one of the detainees caught up in the widening crackdown by CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) under the Trump administration. But the problems didn’t stop with the detention: Elvis’s asylum effort came at a time when a slew of policy changes and Department of Justice rulings have snarled the court system in myriad ways.
A slew of policy changes and Department of Justice rulings have snarled the immigration court system in myriad ways.