It’s 8:30 a.m. on a recent morning in Boston’s immigration court. A federal prosecutor for the Department of Homeland Security pushes a cart loaded with case files into a courtroom. She wedges the cart between a wall and a desk and heaves a pile of paperwork onto the tabletop. Another day full of master calendar hearings is about to get underway.
For an immigrant who’s fighting deportation or applying for asylum, a master calendar hearing is their initial court appearance. It kick-starts the rest of their proceedings, and they usually walk out with a date for their next court appearance.
In Boston, those dates are being set further and further out thanks to the nearly 27,000 cases already pending — an increase of 76 percent since President Trump took office. It’s the second-largest spike in the country.