Massive backlog in U.S. immigration courts is growing by ‘1,000 cases a day’ as a result of the government shutdown while Trump and Democrats wrangle over a border wall
- The government shutdown is worsening an already massive backlog in U.S. immigration courts – growing the dockets by an estimated 1,000 cases a day
- In many cases people seeking to enter the U.S. have already waited years for their day in court, and now it’s uncertain when they will get that opportunity
- As of November 30, U.S. immigration courts had 809,041 cases on their backlog – nearly a 50% increase from the 542,411 cases pending when Trump took office
The already massive backlog in U.S. immigration courts is being worsened by the government shutdown, throwing thousands of cases to the back of the line each week as the stalemate continues, experts say.
Ashley Tabaddor, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges and a Los Angeles-based judge, told DailyMail.com that since the shutdown began December 21, roughly a thousand cases ‘have come to a standstill’ every single day.
In many cases people have already waited years for their day in court, and now it’s uncertain when they will get that opportunity.
‘It’s not that if you miss a (court) date that everybody’s case is rolled over, it just doesn’t work that way, Tabaddor said. ‘It’s most likely those cases will have to go to the back of the line, which is three or four years away, or other people’s cases will have to be bumped.’
Immigration is at the heart of the stalemate between the Trump administration and Democratic leaders in Congress who oppose the president’s demands for a $5.7 billion wall along the Southern U.S. border.
This chart illustrates the annual growth in the immigration court backlog since 1998
Trump has said he won’t back down on his demand for the funding, while Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer have said they could get bills passed to open up government immediately – but those plans wouldn’t include a wall.
Trump has also threatened to declare a state of emergency to generate the funds he needs for the wall.
As of November 30, U.S. immigration courts had 809,041 cases on their backlog, according to an analysis of government data by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University (TRAC).
That represents a nearly 50 percent increase from the 542,411 cases that were pending at the end of January 2017, when Trump took office.
In addition, the Trump administration ordered another 330,211 cases to be added to the dockets that had previously been administratively closed at the discretion of immigration judges.
Currently the only immigration courts that are still operating are those serving immigrants who are currently in U.S. detention facing deportation – handled by about 25 percent of the nation’s immigration judges, Tabaddor said.
That leaves roughly three-quarters of immigration judges furloughed as their dockets continue to back up.
Tabaddor notes that the backlog has grown despite the administration adding more immigration judges than any other administration in recent history.
She attributes that to what the NAIJ views as a conflict of interest that hinders the independence and objectivity of immigration judges as long as they are under the authority of the same people who prosecute the immigrants whose cases they oversee every day.
‘This (backlog) actually highlights a fundamental problem with the immigration court which is that the court is run by the Department of Justice (under the Department of Homeland Security) and the attorney general, who is the prosecutor (in these cases),’ she told DailyMail.com. ‘The way the court is administered and used is an extension of enforcement.’
That’s bad news for immigrants awaiting their day in court. The average case in immigration court has been in the system for 718 days, according to TRAC.
The Trump administration has sought to address the backlog by requiring judges to meet a quota of 700 cases a year – and is basing their performance reviews on their ability to meet that standard.
The National Association of Immigration Judges has strongly opposed the quotas, noting they are often handling complex, life-or-death cases that could result in people being deported to dangerous and deadly situations in their home countries.