Observations, 4/18/11, Bobby Lawson

One case (out of 16 hearings) stood out for me of a man who has come to the U.S. from Mexico to find work to support his wife and two special needs children in Mexico. He had a DUI in 2008 but was not convicted and went through court supervision for drinking problem. He has been in the U.S. for 12 years and worked steady for 8 at the same job. The judge lowered his bond to $3000.00 and rescheduled his hearing to allow his lawyer more time in representing him. In only one case did the judge allow a detainee to have voluntary departure, although he did not reduce his bond because he was caught driving his car without a license. The judge felt he would still disrespect the law and continue this if released. The down-side of voluntary departure is that the detainee has to pay the cost. The up-side is that there is a better chance of being able to enter this country legally at a later date. If he was involuntarily removed (deported), there would be no opportunity for that (editor’s note, for at least 10 years.) Many detainees seemed to want voluntary departure. Perhaps this was one of the reasons.

Some impressions were driven home to me as I watched these proceedings. At least as far as this judge was concerned, there was a desire to find the possibility of relief from deportation, however, most of the detainees damaged their own cases because of a criminal record. Cases of domestic violence and aggravated battery would seem to warrant removal. And drug possession and DUI’s are serious as well. However, courts are designed to deal with the facts of what happened. They do not and are not able to address the “whys” of such cases. Why has a person developed an alcohol problem? Why did the person secure a false ID? Why did the person steal? … In some cases, as it is with U.S. citizens, I think the courts are limited in their response. It will take other institutions of society stepping up to address the circumstances that breed such decisons.

One final impression: I was able to talk with the judge informally after the court had adjourned for lunch. It was clear that he is a conscientious man who tries to treat detainees with respect. He wrestles with the information to try and make the best decision for all within the boundaries of the law. He tries to give family members an opportunity to speak for a few minutes to their loved ones when they are in court. This is somewhat awkward doing this through televideo in a court room where others are present but it is a kind and good gesture. Yet he has to move through some 120-150 or so cases a week. No one wants the detainees to be in limbo any longer than necessary, yet all deserve due process in their cases. He finds himself having to make very weighty decisions with huge consequences on peoples’ lives with very little information and in very little time.


1 Response to “Observations, 4/18/11, Bobby Lawson”

  1. August 21, 2014 at 6:02 am

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