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Feds Want To Expand E-Filing For Immigration Court Records

An arm of the Justice Department wants to expand a pilot program and have lawyers file case documents electronically to all immigration courts.

The practice is already happening in at least five cities outside of Arizona.

The rule would require Homeland Security, and people who help those facing deportation, like immigration lawyers, to file case records electronically.

“It has to get totally implemented. It’s long overdue. The immigration court needs to catch up with the evolution of technology,” said Phoenix-based lawyer Ray Ybarra Maldonado.

One of his firm’s big costs is driving to courts around the state to file documents by hand.

“So if we’re taking less trips to Eloy, Florence and Tucson, we might be able to give some of that savings to our clients we represent,” he said.

The public gets a chance to comment on the potential expansion.

Ybarra Maldonado thinks the electronic system could be available here as soon as this summer. And the bid by the Executive Office for Immigration Review would help cut the case backlog in the immigration courts.

The idea reminds him of a trip to El Paso for a hearing. He went to court there and learned that a government attorney had left a paper file at their office. Without an electronic copy, the judge delayed the case for months.

“So I think having the E-filing system, and everybody have access to the file, while we’re in court, is going to make it much more efficient. (There would be) less continuances and (we would) be able to get cases adjudicated quicker," he said. 

If the expansion is approved, federal officials plan to also let people fighting deportation without a lawyer file case records electronically.

Matthew Casey has won Edward R. Murrow awards for hard news and sports reporting since he joined KJZZ as a senior field correspondent in 2015.