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Update on Immigration Issues and the State Courts

SJI began using the Strategic Initiatives Grants (SIG) program in FY 2008 to address immigration issues and the state courts at a national impact level. As part of this effort, SJI in coordination with the Center for Public Policy Studies (CPPS) began working with the state courts to determine how immigration issues are impacting them. Two overarching themes developed out of this work: 1) state court capacity to provide effective service is challenged by the magnitude and intensity of current and anticipated immigration (equal access to justice); and 2) the intersection of federal immigration law and practice, and state law, can result in unintended consequences for litigants and state court systems.

CPPS has been working over the past four years with state courts to address this issue, and has also produced various products at the national level dealing with state courts and immigration issues. During the June 18, 2012, Board meeting, Dr. John Martin from CPPS briefed the SJI Board on the four activities completed as part of the project, and the two remaining activities which are currently underway, including providing direct technical assistance to the state courts.

The following activities are components of this multi-year initiative: 1) identify the major challenges and opportunities state courts need to address when dealing with immigrants in the courts and establishing a web-based resource network; 2) work with nine diverse court jurisdictions to learn the challenges they face in addressing the needs of immigrant populations that use the courts and how to best address those challenges; 3) prepare separate electronic, interactive bench guides for assisting judges and court administrators across the nation address the practical implications of state court criminal case processing involving immigrants, and addressing the nexus of federal immigration status and family, juvenile, and dependency case processing; 4) prepare an interactive electronic Guidebook for Addressing the Impacts of Immigration in the State Courts that can be used in courts across the nation; 5) develop and conduct courses for judges and court personnel for addressing the impacts of immigration in the state courts and establishing and coordinating a nation-wide training network; and 6) establish and facilitate an on-going federal/state dialogue to promote better collaboration between federal agencies and the state courts when addressing immigration issues that impact the state courts.

In FY 2012, with SJI assistance, CPPS began focusing on human trafficking issues and the state courts. Specifically, helping the state courts determine the knowledge, expertise, processes, and basic infrastructure needed to address human trafficking. In addition, CPPS is working to develop model protocols, tools, and training for judges and court personnel on how to effectively manage cases involving immigrant litigants with mental health issues.

These resources are available for download free of charge from the CPPS website. Please contact the Immigration and the State Courts Initiative team at CPPS if there are any questions on the content, or for technical assistance.