The first federal immigration court opened in Louisville Monday, on the 11th floor of the Heyburn Building on West Broadway. A group of more than two dozen protesters gathered on the street outside to speak out against what they said was likely to lead to an acceleration in deportations.
Protest organizer Stephen Bartlett said judges in Memphis used to hear the cases of immigrants facing deportation from Louisville through video calls. Now those interactions will take place in person.
“It means an expansion of their agenda of deporting immigrants and separating families,” he said.
The group of protestors featured men and women of different ethnic backgrounds and ages. Some represented faith groups or immigrant rights organizations. Others showed up on their own, hoping to speak out against what they see as an unjust system.
Seventeen-year-old Andrea Britl, a student at the nearby St. Francis School, said she wants to see more compassionate policies for immigrants.
“It makes me angry, it makes me really angry. I hate seeing that this is happening in my city,” she said. “I thought Louisville was supposed to be a compassionate city, but this is happening.”
Another protester, teacher Maud Bartlett, said she came to the protest as an individual, not as part of a group. She said she’d heard that the judges at Louisville’s immigration court are known for high rates of asylum denial.
“I think it’s just very damaging because the people here need protection,” she said. “There’s a lot of bad things going on and we need to help those who are here.”
Federal immigration officials said they’re committed to ensuring fairness in all cases brought to the court, which will be in session each Monday through Friday.
This post has been corrected to clarify that the federal immigration court is under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Justice, not Immigration and Customs Enforcement.