To facilitate this increase of cases, Sessions authorized the construction of two temporary courthouses at the border in Texas – one in the city of Brownsville and the other in the city of Laredo.  The courthouses were constructed over the summer of 2019 and went into operation in September of that same year, each intending to hear 300 cases a day.

These courthouses are constructed on US Federal property next to the ports of entry on what were parking lots for US Border Patrol. Because the site sits on federal property, they are subject to heightened modes of security and, as a result, have limited access to legal observers. To be clear, these are not criminal hearings, these are immigration hearings and historically immigration hearings have been open to the public. The temporary courthouses exist as legal “black sites” that allow the US to obfuscate what goes on inside. They function similarly to a camp described by Michel Aiger, “spaces set apart, physically delimited, no man’s land…” and most importantly, “exception from normal laws and exclusion.” At first glance, they could be mistaken for camps as they utilize soft-walled tents and repurposed shipping containers to hold hearings. The judges are located in private offices and preside over the case using video-teleconferencing technology or VTC.