More judges hearing migrants’ cases in secretive tent courts


The Migration Protection Protocols Immigration Hearing Facility, a new tent court facility made up of tents and portable pods, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019, along the Rio Grande in Laredo, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

HOUSTON (AP) — More immigration judges are overseeing hearings remotely in secretive tent courts the U.S. government has built along the southern border.

A Justice Department spokeswoman said Tuesday that one judge in El Paso, Texas, is hearing cases via video in Brownsville, nearly 700 miles (1,120 kilometers) away. Five other judges hearing cases are based at the Port Isabel detention center, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement jail adjacent to Brownsville.

The courts opened this month to process some of the 42,000 migrants forced to remain in Mexico under the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols. Some say they have been attacked and extorted in Mexico.

The U.S. government refuses to let observers inside the tent courts to watch proceedings, citing security concerns. ICE hasn’t said if it will allow observers inside Port Isabel.

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