Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (2014–…): Season 5, Episode 6 - Immigration Courts - full transcript

In this episode, John Oliver covers Immigration Court.

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Welcome to "Last Week Tonight" !
I'm John Oliver.

Thak you so much for joining us !
Time for a quick recap of the week.

It was a slow one
for The Trump White House

in the did only saw the fallout
of a porn star 60 minutes interview,

a speech featuring a seemingly ad-lib
reversal our military strategy in Syria

and the firing
of VA secretary David Shulkin.

But don't worry,
Trump had a replacement lined up

and he searched everywhere
within 12 feet of him

to appoint his own White House doctor
who you may recall

from his ringing endorsement
of Trump's health.

The president's health in excellent.
He has incredible genes.

I told the president
he might live to be 200 years old.

He remain fit for duty
for the remainder of this term

and for the remainder of another term
if he's elected.

Hold on there, doc, because first
Trump's health is not excellent.

Not the diagnoses
any google image search could make.

And secondly he absolutely
does not have incredible genes.

We've had irrefutable evidence
of that for the past 40 years.

But let's not all get sucked into
Trump's gravitational force yet again.

Instead let's talk about Egypt. Home
of the world's first botched nose job.

Egypt had a presidential election.
The results will be official tomorrow.

We can reveal the winner was...
Hillary Clinton !

I'm kidding !

I'm kidding ! She didn't win.

I just love messing with you.
The emails were really a problem.

The winner of course will be Egypt
strongman Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

A man who one unrolled
a red carpet for himself,

that was literally
more that 2 miles long.

I know that he's the winner
because he had no serious opponents.

One was arrested and three more
withdrew amid reports of intimidation,

and yet el-Sisi claimed to be devastated
by the lack of competition.

It's not my fault ! I swear to God,
I wish that would have been

more candidates
for people to choose who they want.

But they were not ready yet.
There is no shame.

So, el-Sisi saying I wish
there had been more candidates

is basically a hipopotamus
who just sat on a pile of hamsters

saying I swear to God
I wish threre were more hamsters.

But they were not ready to crawl out
from under my giant hippo butt.

There was no shame in this !

If you're gonna have something
that even looks like an election,

you badly need at least
the appearance of an opponent.

And he did get one of those
kind of.

The only man to stand
against president Sisi

is Mousa Mustafa Mousa,
am openly pro Sisi politician

who until the day
before to register to run

was part of the campaign
to get Sisi reelected.

It's true ! One of his own supporters
jumped into the race to the last minute

submitting his candidacy
just 15 minutes before the deadline.

Until the morning of his nomination
Mouses's own Facebook page said:

½Long live Egypt !
Abdel Fattah el-Sisi for president !"

Maybe it was just a glitch
on Egyptian Facebook.

Like the one on America's Facebook,
where they allowed your personal data

to be accesed by the firm working
to elect Donald Trump president of US.

But look Farmville was superfun,
wasn't it ?

So it was all working
at the end of the day.

But the key rule of a sham election
is make it look legitimate.

On election day,
el-Sisi's election spokesperson

was reassuring Egyptians that was
a completely free and fair election.

Of course it's a democratic process.
The evidence is the Egyptian people,

including big numbers of youth
and elderly have come out to vote.

They are coming to say yes
to Mr. President, yes to Egypt.

We are here to say yes to Egypt.

But saying yes to Egypt is not what
this election is supposed to be about.

The vote here is not
"Is Egypt ?, yes or no".

Unsurprisingly, el-Sisi is projected
to win with 92 percent of the vote.

But in a sign of what a joke
Egyptians considered this to be,

only around 40 percent of voters
bothered to show up,

despite that in a desperate attempt
to make it look legitimate

the National Election Authority
had threatened to impose a fine

on people who failed
to cast their ballots.

And el-Sisi supporters
weren't even above bribes

to get the Egyptians
to go to the polls.

The going rate for a vote
was around 3-5 dollars.

But heading down
to a polling station

could also have landed you
a box of groceries,

or even half-price tickets
to an amusement park.

5 bucks and discount tickets
to an amusement park.

Say what you like about el-Sisi,
and if you live in Egypt you can't,

but if this pretty depressing
that 7 years after the Arab Spring

he's trying to win over the voters

the same way a divorced dad
tries to win over his kids.

Finally tonight, a quick update
concerning local news.

The people who bring you
stories like this...

Good evening !
Dana is off tonight.

He was murdered and then set on fire
while celebrating his birthday.

Holly shit !

He needed to put a space between
Dana's whereabouts and his first story

or someone was pissed off that they
weren't invited to Dana's party.

Last year we told you
about Sinclair Broadcast Group

the company which if their acquisition
of Tribune Media is approved,

could soon own local station
reaching 72 percent of TV households.

And in that story we talked
about Sinclair's must runs:

stories the station managers
are forced to include in the broadcast

which often skew
noticeably conservative.

There are
still very much happening,

from an investigation
into the quote-unquote

"deep state
that's undermining President Trump"

to batshit commentaries,

from former Trump aid Boris Epstein,
who incidentally is 35 years old.

We don't have time to get into that,

suffice to say he is the same age
as Nicki Minaj,

while somehow looking
like Jon Favreau's father.

It doesn't make sense
but there isn't time.

Boris carries a lot of water
for this president.

Remember when Trump
called African countries shitholes ?

This was Boris's hot take.

Media outlets such as CNN
are cursing up a storm.

Not only are the anchors
on the network's cursing left and right

using the word that has been written
in bold letters across their screens.

President Trump said the word once
in a private meeting.

How is it okay to repeat it and splash
it on the screen hundreds of times ?

I believe that makes no sense.

Hold on ! First of all,
what the fuck was up with that zoom ?

He's like that dramatic chipmunk
of disingenous bullshit.

But second people were upset that
Trump used his racist brain and mouth.

If Trump would called Haiti,
El Salvador and Africa

dope ass places
from which we should welcome

a shit tone
of motherfucker immigrants,

I don't think anyone would have been
offended by his vulgarity.

But recently Sinclair took their game
to a new level.

A script leaks for a statement
they wanted local anchors to deliver

warning that the national media outlets
were publishing fake stories

which was echoing one of Trump's
favurite talking points/screaming points.

Ane here was just a taste.

We are concerned
about the troubling trend

of irresponsable
one-sided news stories.

Some members of the media
use their platforms

to pust their own personal bias and
agenda to control what people think.

This is dangerous
to our democracy.

It can be dangerous
when members of the media do that,

like when Boris tries to convince you
that Trump is a good president,

or when I tried to convince you
that the only way Boris Epstein

was born 35 years ago
is he came out of the womb at age 23.

There isn't time, it doesn't make sense
but there isn't time !

Some anchors complained the press
saying "this is so manipulative"

and "I felt like a prisoner of war
recording a message".

And I will say
I don't know that woman from before,

but just look at her eyes
when her co-anchor is talking.

She looks like she's rather be
murdered and set on fire...

And that statement
is creepy enough,

but when you see how many
local stations were force to read it

and you watch them toghether
as many have been doing online,

you begin to realize the true effect
of Sinclair's reach and power.

Some members of the media...

Some members of the media
use their platforms

to push their own personal bias
and agenda

to control what people think.

It's extremely dangerous
to our democracy !

Nothing says we value intedendent
media like dozens of reporters

forced to repeat the same message
over and over again,

like members
of a brainwashed cult.

I guess what I'm saying here Sinclair
is that as a news organization...

I believe you make no sense.

And now, this !

And now... Baseball's back,

and local news
knows exactly what that means.

The food always taste
so much better at the ballpark.

Ballpark food is the best !

A burger with pulled pork
and cheese curds !

Waffle battered chicken sliders.

All beef hot-dog wrapped
in bacon covered with cheetos.

Buffalo chicken,
mac and cheese,

all filled inside
the center of an onion ring tower.

The Triple B ! The three Bs
are Bacon, Brisket and Bologna.

Your cinnamon bun,
only battered and deep-fried...

Barbecue parfait
with pork and mashed potato.

- Pierogi hoagie.
- Ice cream stuffed doughnot.

The candy cloud waffle cone.

Talk-shows !
Nachos with tater tots...

And apple pie pizza logs.

It's a hot-dog wrapped in a pickle
and deep-fried.

Bacon jam, pulled pork,

barbecue sauce and hot cheetos
on a sweet bun.

How long have you been waiting
to put cheetos on a dish ?

2-3- years.

Moving on. Our main story tonight
concerns courts,

where millions of Americans
end up every year,

after making a large squirrel
the CEO of a Coal Company.

We've all been there, right ?

Courts are the center
of our judicial system.

They are the backbone
of daytime TV.

A college student brings his mommy.
Judge Judy !

Don't get me preaching up !

The Verdict,
with Judge Hachett.

A show
that's making a difference !

You need to be sober
seven days a week !

Fraternity court !

I know cuz I'm not stupid that you're
a liar then and you're a liar know.

Tle People's Court !
A Pack of Dogs ! Draw Blood !

This is a confession !
This is a note by the dog.

I've had all my shots.

Hot Bench !

I know that looks like
a fun episode of Hot Bench,

but you should know that cute dog
confessed to murdering 14 people,

so it's not quite as fun
as they made it look.

We're gonna focus on a type of justice
you don't get to watch on TV.

It concerns immigration courts.
You not know much about it,

but are hugely important
to a significant number of people,

like gefilte fish,
or insane clown posse.

You may have seen
multiple stories

of ice agents raiding workplaces
and hauling people away.

While those stories are horryfying, the
place manny of those people end up,

immigration courts,
are no less trobling.

There are around 60 of them,
all over the country,

and hundreds of thousands of people
go through them,

pleading their case
against deportation.

They are hugely consequential
and the stakes in this cases

can be incredibly high, as one girl
awaiting a hearing can atest.

What would happen
if we sent you home ?

They're gonna kill me !

They're gonna kill me
and my family.

No child should have to worry about
whether they're going to be murdered.

The biggest thing
they should be worrying about

are whether they can sit
with the cool kids

and how they can please

That last one is ridiculous,
because remember kids,

Slenderman already loves you
just the way you are.

So this is a critical potentially
life-and-death process.

Sadly, the system is a complete mess
and don't take that from me,

but from multiple current and former
immigration court judges.

Most people would be incredulous
at what happens in immigration court

and what sometimes passes
for due process.

Our courts are dysfunctional.

We're doing death penalty cases
in a traffic court setting.

Death penalty cases
in traffic court.

It's something we shouldn't be doing, in
a place that we shouldn't be doing it,

like having a cock fight
in an emergency room.

Or doing coke
in a build-a-bear workshop.

It's a crazy idea,
it gets stuck in the bear's hair.

So how did this system
get so broken ?

A surge of immigration
from Central America

ramped-up immigration enforcement,
and a "glacial" rate of hiring judges

have combined to create
a massive backlog of cases.

More that 617 000 immigration cases
are now backlogged.

That number has more than doubled
since 2009.

It's as if they have forgotten us,
says Andres,

one of the immigrants
waiting for hearing in San Francisco,

where the average wait time
is three years.

In Miami,
the wait is about a year and a half,

and it's much worse in cities
like San Antonio, Atlanta and Chicago.

The estimated wait time in Chicago
is five years.

If you're stuck in that line
that's not good to your case.

Evidence can become stale
and witnesses can disappear or die.

Yet, over 600 000 cases
pilled up endlessly,

like Bed, Bath and Beyond coupons,
New Yorker magazines

and episodes of Ken Burns's
Vietnam documentary.

It's good but I'm never in the mood
and I never ever will be.

Ever !

Issues go deeper
that just long wait times.

While immigration courts have
the trappings of a criminal court,

you can wind up there from arrest,
be detained awaiting your hearing,

against the government,
there are actually civil courts,

because this is not
a criminal trial.

Their only task is deciding if you
can stay in the country. That's it.

Things you might assume someone
there would have access to,

they don't and the first
big one is this.

Unlike criminal court,
in immigration court

the federal government is not
required to provide lawyers.

If you can't afford a lawyer,
you have to defend yourself,

a terrible idea.

Think of an immigration hearing like
surgery: you can try do it yourself,

but if want to see your family again,
get a professional to help you.

Only 37% of immigrants in these courts
have counsel,

the majority are appearing in front
of a judge without a lawyer.

Some, in particular,
really need one.

Many undocumented children
that walk into the court house

don't have an attorney
and must represent themselves.

Children from 2 to 17 years old
are appearing by themselves,

sitting there without a clue
about what's happening.

Ridiculous. Can't let a 2 year old
unsupervised in court,

not even in a bouncy castle, they'll
come out covered in glitter,

holding a broken beer bottle
and a dead bird.

How did they get them in there ?
Who knows ?

They can't be left alone for a second
and the bird has been in their mouth.

Deal with that reality !

Sending kids in court without
representation might seem crazy,

some judges
are apparently fine with it.

When a lawsuit was filed arguing
all kids need lawyers,

Jack Weil, an assistant chief
immigration judge, suggested

that's not necessarily the case.

I've taught immigration law
to three-years-old and four-years-olds.

It takes a lot of time,
it takes a lot of patience.

They get it.

It's not the most efficient,
but it can be done.

No, it can't ! You can't teach
immigration law to a three-year-old.

Can't even explain to a child that
age that Elmo isn't his best friend.

Elmo's a celebrity,
he's never even heard of you.

Your relantionship
is completely asymmetrical.

One lawyer put judge Weil's
three-year-olds theory to the test

in the single greatest mock trial
ever recorded.

Do you speak English
as your native language ?

Yeah, I like my balloon !

I like your balloon, too.
What is your best language ?

I placed a tie over fairies...

Where were you born ?

It was mommy and...

You feel you can represent yourself
in immgiration courts ?

- Right ! Are you excited to do it ?
- Yeah.

Yeah ! Of course, she knows all
the most important legal principles.

If I like my balloon,
you mustn't deport soon

and if I place a tire of a ferry...

... an asylum.

That lawyer did a series
of videos with kids,

but my favorite is this one...

If you were removed, would you like
to designate a country of removal ?

- Yeah.
- What country would that be ?


Yeah ! You laugh now, but it won't be
cute when she's deported to Papa John.

That's technically pizza and that is
why children need lawyers.

Whether you have a lawyer or not

your odds of success
may be dictated by where you are.

In San Francisco, immigrants are
deported in 36% of cases.

In Charlotte,
the number jumps to 84%.

In New York City, only 24%
of cases result in deportation.

In Atlanta,
the rate is almost 90%.

While the merits
of every case are different,

that is an alarming disparity
between courts.

The only thing that should vary
that much by region

is the rate of Jeff Dunham fans
per capita.

Regardless of where you are, that
number should never be 90%.

Immigration courts are not nearly
as independent as they should be.

You might assume they be part
of the judicial branch,

immigration courts are actually part
of the executive branch.

They're run by the DOJ, being subject
to shifting political priorities.

Now, the boss of all these judges
is Jeff Sessions,

the only cabinet member allowed
to fly as lap infant on a flight.

He has made it pretty clear
what his priorities are.

For those seeking improper
and illegal entry into this country,

be forwarned:
this is a new era, the Trump era.

There's a specific type of person who
grins when saying "Trump era".

People with Trump's name,
Trump's hats

and the only person in America
still getting a kick out of Covefe.

I don't agree with everything
the guy says, but we had some laughs.

It's not a word. "Covefe" is not
a word. That's why it's funny.

Priceless !

Sessions has a weird amount of power
over immigration courts.

He can refer cases to himself,

which means
personally reviewing decisions.

He picked up a case concerning
a woman eligible for asylum,

based on domestic violence
that she suffered for years

under her husband in El Salvador.

If he overturns that decision,
not only she could be deported,

but he can set precedents, making it
harder for other victims to get asylum.

While Session isn't the last person
I'd want to set precedents,

he's near the bottom of that list,
before OJ Simpson,

Johnny Depp and Mr. Peanut.

If you don't know what that
last one is referring to,

google Mr. Peanut domestic violence,
I have no idea what you'll find,

but give it a try,
we might all be surprised.

When you combine all this factors,
backlogged courts,

lack of representation and judges
without full independence,

you can have cases that
don't even resemble justice.

The New Yorker told the story
of a woman in Honduras,

who asked them
to identify her as Elena.

MS-13 killed two of her brothers
and shot her sister.

She fled to America,
turned herself in to Border Patrol.

DHS said she didn't qualify for asylum,
she couldn't prove "credible fear",

she appealed, requesting
a hearing with an immigration judge.

I'm about to play that hearing
for you in its entirety.

This is the whole thing.

I have read
what the asylum officer wrote.

You told that some gang member
became infatuated with you,

wanted you to be with him,
to open a bank account,

so the criminal proceeds from the gang
could be placed there.

- And you refused.
- Yes. I said no.

Did you move to any other city
in Honduras before coming to the US ?


The government of the US doesn't
afford your protection for this reason.

I affirm
the asylum officer's decision.

That was it. Did you move ? No.
Okay, goodbye.

Elena was deported to Honduras,
where she was assaulted at gunpoint

by the man she fled,
her fear was pretty credible.

We trimmed the parts where
a translator interprets,

but the full hearing lasted
one minute and 43 seconds.

There were only two questions.
That Hot Bench episode at the start

was eight minutes long and
we counted 32 questions.

There should have been one:
how did that dog write this letter ?

Case dismissed.

In some cases, deportations do
turn out to be a death sentence.

Take Constantino Morales,

a mexican police officer
targeted by a drug cartel.

Fled to the US, ended up
in an immigration court in Nebraska.

Couldn't afford an attorney,
so he represented himself

before of a judge who opts to deport
84% of the time.

Morales lost his case and filmed
this message after that decision.

I am being deported.
They are deporting me.

It was four years of fighting.

My request was denied,
but you have to fight to the end.

Don't be scared. No worries.
Life goes on.

He was deported back to Mexico
and six months and 29 days after,

he was killed and that is
heartbreaking obviously.

This whole system is broken,
so the question really is:

how can it be fixed ?

Sessions wants to hire more judges,
which the system does need,

but he wants judges to move faster
and advocated for increased scrutiny

of what he calls fake asylum claims.

Immigration courts are like sex.
The way to improve them

is rarely to say:
"let's do it a lot faster and meaner,"

"and let's have Jeff Sessions
overseeing the whole thing."

The truth here is we are
going to need big changes.

The biggest change would be to make
the courts independent from DOJ,

which can't happen overnight
or, under this Congress, at all.

We should absolutely fix
the stupidest problem of all:

nobody, particularly children,
should have to represent themselves.

Because children
do not understand the law.

Having them alone in a courtroom
is a terrible idea.

To prove it, I give you the stupidest
new court show imaginable !

You've seen a lot
of corporate shows.

But you've never seen
one like this.

Order !

That's right. In this courtroom,
everyone is three or four years old.

My favorite food is mango.

Everyone that is
except the defendant.

What is this ?

Is this a joke ?

No. This is "Tot Bench".
In this week's episode,

this arsonist
is in the hot seat.

- You're bad.
- Bad !

- Seriously ?
- You're guilty.

Object ! Just object !

Object to you !

It's object, not "the dot"...

He's got the best legal advice
a three-year-old can give.

What's the difference
between a banana and a cow ?

I don't know. What ?

A banana is yellow.

"Tot Bench" has everything,
a bailiff, a stenographer...

- Do you even know my name ?
- David Schwimmer.

How do you even know
who David Schwimmer is ?

"Hacksaw Ridge".

Schwimmer wasn't in "Hacksaw Ridge".
The stenographer is leaving now.

A courtroom artist...

So there's a sketch artist now ?
Great ! Sure she's teribble.

That's so good !

And, of course,
judge Riley.

- How did you become a judge ?
- I believed in myself to be a judge.

- How long have you been doing this ?
- 14 years.

You've been doing this
for 14 years, but you're four ?

Yeah !

It's a case with twists and turns.

There was another judge.
What happened ?

She wet her pants.

And snacks,
so many snacks...

Will anyone share their snacks
with me ?

You'll even see a lawyer turn
on his own client.

Tell them
I didn't burn down the hospital.

You burned down the hospital.


You did burned down the hospital.

You know what ? I am guilty.
There you go !

I'm guilty...

"Tot Bench" ! Is it stupid ? Sure.

But is it dumber than how immigration
courts are run ? Barely.

The judge sentenced me
to a jillion years.

A jillion is not even a number.
Who threw that ?

That's our show. See you next week.
Goodnight !

- You know my dog's name ?
- What ?

- Wolf-wolfy.
- That's your dog's name ?

That's a good name for a dog.

Quiet !

- Is that true ?
- Yes.

Your dog's name is Wolf-Wolfy ?