When Salvadoran immigrant Joselin Marroquin-Torres became flustered in front of a federal immigration judge in New York and forgot to give her asylum application, a woman she had just met stood up to provide it.
"Thank you," the judge said. "What is your relation to Joselin?"
"I am a friend," responded retired chemist Marisa Lohse, who has accompanied dozens of immigrants to such hearings.
Lohse is among hundreds of volunteers, including preachers, law students and retirees, who've stepped up to accompany people in the U.S. illegally to court hearings and meetings with immigration officials, guiding them through an often intimidating process.
Some of them say the accompaniment is more important than ever since Republican President Donald Trump expanded the definition of deportable offenses to include all immigrants living in the country illegally, giving rise to immigrants being apprehended during routine check-ins with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
"We want to increase the accompaniment because the crisis is more severe. The pain, the fear, is bigger," said Guillermo Torres, from Clergy & Laity United for Economic Justice in Los Angeles.
The group escorts mostly women and children to immigration court hearings, where judges decide who can stay in the U.S. and who must leave. Volunteers also accompany immigrants who are required to periodically check in with federal agents because they have pending cases or have been ordered deported.
ICE said it didn't have national statistics on how often immigrants have been arrested during those check-ins. Immigration lawyers and advocacy groups said they believe such arrests are increasing. Trump has said the arrests and deportations are necessary to keep the country safe.
Kansas’ highest court appeared receptive Thursday to declaring for the first time that the state constitution recognizes abortion rights, with a majority of the justices skeptical of the state’s argument against the idea as it defended a ban on a common second-trimester procedure.
The state Supreme Court heard arguments in a lawsuit filed by Kansas City-area father-daughter physicians against a 2015 first-in-the-nation law that has become a model for abortion opponents in other states. The key issue is whether the Kansas Constitution protects abortion rights independently of the U.S. Constitution, which would allow state courts to invalidate restrictions that have been upheld by the federal courts.
Abortion opponents fear that such a decision by state courts could block new laws — or invalidate existing ones — even if President Donald Trump’s appointments result in a more conservative U.S. Supreme Court. Janet Crepps, an attorney for the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, which is representing the doctors, argued that it’s important for Kansas residents to know what rights their constitution protects.
“The federal constitutional protection seems to ebb and flow with the political tide,” Crepps said.
Abortion-rights supporters contend broad language in the state constitution’s Bill of Rights protects a woman’s right to obtain an abortion. The Bill of Rights says residents have “natural rights” including “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” and that “free governments” were created for their “equal protection and benefit.”
The state argues there’s no evidence that when the constitution was written in 1859, its drafters contemplated the issue in a legal environment in which abortion generally was illegal.
Everyone was in place for the hearing in Atlanta immigration court: the Guinean man hoping to stay in the U.S., his attorney, a prosecutor, a translator and the judge. But because of some missing paperwork, it was all for nothing.
When the government attorney said he hadn't received the case file, Judge J. Dan Pelletier rescheduled the proceeding. Everybody would have to come back another day.
The sudden delay was just one example of the inefficiency witnessed by an Associated Press writer who observed hearings over two days in one of the nation's busiest immigration courts. And that case is one of more than half a million weighing down court dockets across the country as President Donald Trump steps up enforcement of immigration laws.
Even before Trump became president, the nation's immigration courts were burdened with a record number of pending cases, a shortage of judges and frequent bureaucratic breakdowns. Cases involving immigrants not in custody commonly take two years to resolve and sometimes as many as five.
The backlog and insufficient resources are problems stretching back at least a decade, said San Francisco Immigration Judge Dana Marks, speaking as the president of the National Association of Immigration Judges.
Milwaukee's sheriff does not have to release information on people at his jail suspected of being in the country illegally because the federal government prohibits it, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Friday.
The 4-2 decision from the court's conservative majority reverses lower-court decisions that ordered Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke to disclose the information under the state's open records law, following a request from an immigrant advocacy group.
The ruling is a victory for Milwaukee's sheriff, who has pledged to follow President Donald Trump's directive to crack down on illegal immigration and expand the number of people prioritized for deportation.
Milwaukee-based Voces de La Frontera filed the request in February 2015, asking for records identifying who the sheriff had held at the request of immigration authorities for the prior two months. The group said it wanted to know who the sheriff was detaining and whether they had a criminal record to meet the narrower guidelines former President Barack Obama previously set for deportation.
The immigrant advocacy said it also wanted to monitor whether any U.S. Citizens were being mistakenly detained because they're aware of one case where that happened.
State and federal lawyers will argue before a panel of federal appellate court judges Tuesday in the pitched fight over President Donald Trump's travel and refugee ban that could reach the Supreme Court.
The legal dispute involves two divergent views of the role of the executive branch and the court system. The federal government maintains the president alone has the power to decide who can enter or stay in the United States, while states suing Trump say his executive order is unconstitutional.
Seattle U.S. District Judge James Robart, who on Friday temporarily blocked Trump's order, has said a judge's job is to ensure that an action taken by the government "comports with our country's laws."
The Justice Department filed a new defense of Trump's ban on travelers from seven predominantly Muslim nations as a federal appeals court weighs whether to restore the administration's executive order. The lawyers said Monday the travel ban was a "lawful exercise" of the president's authority to protect national security and said Robart's order that put the policy on hold should be overruled.
The filing with the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was the latest salvo in a high-stakes legal fight surrounding Trump's order.
Washington state, Minnesota and other states say the appellate court should allow a temporary restraining order blocking the travel ban to stand as their lawsuit moves through the legal system.
U.S. immigration courts are making a change to focus on deportation hearings for immigrants jailed by the federal government, giving less urgency to cases of children and families who were stopped on the U.S.-Mexico border and released.
Chief Immigration Judge MaryBeth Keller said in a memo Tuesday that the top priority for immigration judges will be scheduling quick hearings for anyone who is detained. That might potentially free up space in an immigrant jail system that is already well beyond capacity, immigration lawyers said.
While immigrants in jail have always been a priority, the Obama administration also had judges focus on children and families stopped on the U.S.-Mexico border in an attempt to deter more people from coming.
The brother of one of the shooters in the San Bernardino terror attack pleaded guilty Tuesday in an immigration fraud case stemming from the probe into the killings.
Syed Raheel Farook entered the plea in federal court in Riverside to one count of conspiracy to commit immigration fraud, the U.S. attorney's office said.
The 31-year-old is the brother of Syed Rizwan Farook, who was killed along with his wife in a shootout with police after the Dec. 2, 2015 attack in which 14 people were slain and 22 injured.
Syed Raheel Farook, his wife and Russian sister-in-law were accused last year of conspiring to arrange a fraudulent marriage between the sister-in-law and Enrique Marquez Jr., who is charged with plotting with Syed Rizwan Farook to carry out earlier attacks and with supplying guns used in the 2015 killings.