Immigration Court Docket Affected Due to Government Shutdown
WESLACO – People waiting to go before an immigration judge could have their hearing pushed back by years.
It's another possible effect of the government shutdown.
The immigration backlog currently stands at about at 800,000 cases nationwide, according to Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), an organization at Syracuse University.
A majority of the cases that were going to be heard during the shutdown are on hold.
People who come before an immigration judge are either currently in detention or out in the community.
They break down into two different groups for judges handling their cases, the detained and the non-detained docket.
Only one of these groups is showing up before the judge during the shutdown, according to Judge Ashley Tabaddor speaking as National Association of Immigration Judges President.
"Judges who are overseeing the detained docket, which means the cases of those who are in ICE custody, those judges are going to work even though everyone is on a non-paid status. Which means that a vast majority of our cases, which are our non-detained docket, those cases are not being heard," says Tabaddor.
There's a backlog of over 114,000 cases in Texas, over 4,000 in Harlingen and 840 in Los Fresnos, according to TRAC.
Every day, thousands of cases are heard by the 800 judges around the country. Only some are allowed to work during this time.
The judge explains, "Everybody received the letter, the furlough letter, for Dec. 24 and 25. And then for those who are in the excepted category which means judges who have been determined to be critical under the law, they have been told that they must come in. They do remain under the no pay status, but the rest of us have been told that we cannot even come in."
For those who can't go to court, their cases will roll over.
Tabaddor says they will likely go to the back of the line.
"You can't just tell 4,000 people on your docket to just come in two weeks later. It doesn't work that way,” she said. “If you can't come in on a day, or you're prevented from coming in on a day, those cases will then have to be rescheduled for an available slot which is oftentimes at the back of the line. So, it'll be a two, or three, or four-year delay."
Tabaddor mentioned members of the organization are eagerly waiting for the end to the shutdown so they can trim their caseload.
The backlog in Texas has been steadily growing since 2007. There were about 8,100 cases then. Currently, it's beyond 114,000.
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