Washington, D.C. -Immigration courts were already dealing with a serious backlog of cases, with many immigrants waiting two or more years for a decision, but the current border crisis in only making matters worse. While this issue has been largely ignored, it’s finally becoming obvious to lawmakers that something needs to be done about the immigration court predicament.
Two years ago, immigration courts were facing a backlog of 375,373 cases. Now, with increased border and interior enforcement along with restricted budgets that figure has grown by 50,000 cases, according to the Justice department. And there’s no telling how many more will be added to dockets as the nearly 57,000 unaccompanied minors are processed and given their chance to appear in court.
But immigration attorneys and judges have long been aware of the issue.
“We are reaching a point of implosion, if we have not already reached it,” Judge Dana Leigh Marks told Reuters. Marks, who has been an immigration judge since 1987 and serves as President of the National Association of Immigration Judges, said it can take between 3 and five years for an immigrants court date to come around. On a single day, an immigration judge can hear 30 to 40 cases.
Marks told Reuters that the complex laws coming from Congress is making it difficult for judges to quickly settle the cases before them.
With a mere 243 judges and 59 immigration courts, the flood of minor immigrants will continue to clog up the courts for years to come. President Obama recently requested funding from Congress to hire 75 more immigration judges, and instructed immigration courts to delay some cases so courts can deal the influx of Central American minor immigrants. But is this really enough judges to hear nearly 400,000 cases? We think not.
It has been suggested that many of these young immigrants be deported immediately, despite their claims of asylum. And without any American officials truly assessing whether these young people do indeed face imminent danger in their homeland.
President Obama has asked for flexibility in this matter, and it’s one of the rare occasions he and Conservatives agree on something. This week alone, Republican lawmakers introduced 20 proposals to handle the crisis, many of which call for expedited deportations and a fast-track to immigration court.
In the innumerable talks about immigration reform, little has been said discussed about how to streamline the system and make it more efficient. If there has been any discussion about the issue, Congress has been silent, focusing their attention on border security, increasing visas and giving undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship. But the current crisis at the Southern Border may finally be getting their attention.
There is no sign immigration laws are going to get any less complex, if anything they will become more complicated, making it even more critical for immigrants, whether they are facing deportation or trying to get asylum to enlist the services of an immigration attorney.