Immigration Backlog Reaches 1-Million Cases

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There are now over one million cases backlogged in immigration courts, according to federal data obtained by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, or TRAC, at Syracuse University

The cases have been increasing since 2006. 

Cases include people who are in federal custody at a detention center and those who were released on their own recognizance with a notice to appear in court.

Immigration Jaime Diez explains detention cases get priority processing due to government resources used to house detainees. 

Asylum seekers and those who living in the country for years with orders of removal make up the 'non detained' docket. 

Those cases can take years to process and that can have disadvantages, explains Diez.

"Imagine you go to court and then the attorney who looks at your case will have looked at 40 to 50 cases he looked at in the morning. And the court makes a decision on one case and the court says the next hearing is on 2022. The next time the attorney comes it might not even be the same attorney. He might not remember anything about the case. And then he has to start from there."

There are currently about 400 immigration judges in the country, according to Ashley Tabaddor, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges. 

This year, immigration judges are also required to see a new group of cases under the Migrant Protection Protocol.

In Brownsville, there's over 6,000 cases waiting. 

Judges hold hearings via video conferencing with migrants showing up for their hearing at the remote location set up at the Brownsville port of entry.

Those cases are in addition to the judges' normal caseload.

Tabaddor says the government added resources to help the Executive Office for Immigration Review, but she says it's not enough. 

In a statement, Tabaddor stated: 

"If nothing else, breaking the one million barrier in spite of unprecedented funding of the court in the last three years underscores that until you fix the design defect of having a court in a law enforcement agency, you're only throwing good money after bad. It's time to move the court out of DOJ and give it the independence it needs to do right for the American people and the parties before the court."

Immigration courts are not like criminal or civil courts operating under a judicial body.

They are under the Department of Justice and the Attorney General. 


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