These days, United States Immigration Court cases are taking longer than ever before.
Here is a list of reasons why the Immigration Court cases are getting prolonged like we have never seen in history:
- A computer problem started on April 12, 2014. Five servers that aid in control over the national Immigration Court computer network stopped working. The new components required to resolve the problem may not be installed until April 26 or later. This system flaw creates delays and postponements.
- Due to the Immigration Court computer problems, the nationwide toll-free phone number that provides data about cases, dates, and judges is also not functioning.
- The government shutdown of October 2013 caused the nondetained Immigration Court cases to be delayed. It may have lasted for only a couple of weeks, but the shutdown wreaked havoc with the system as well, causing thousands of cases to be held up.
- There are a record number of pending cases in the Immigration Court system. Well over 360,000 immigrants await a trial date as compared to half that number in 2008, the year that Barack Obama was elected President. Since then, the backlog has grown astronomically.
- The average number of daily detention cases has almost doubled, from 18,000 in 2004 to the current amount of 34,000 immigrants in custody. Many United States Immigration Judges are assigned to handle these detained matters exclusively. In New Jersey there are four judges in Immigration Court presiding over those in custody while only three judges are assigned to the nondetained matters.
- We do not have enough judges in Immigration Court nationally. As of last year, 220 Immigration Judges sat in 59 cities. With more than 360,000 awaiting trials, the ratio is roughly 1600 immigrants per judge. No wonder that in many places, we are receiving dates of late 2017 for initial appearances.
- Approximately 100 judges in Immigration Court are eligible to retire this year. And there are no immediate plans to replace them. That ratio of 1600 immigrants per judge could grow astronomically.
- The ratio is actually not even. In certain cities, the numbers are far more overwhelming. For example, in Houston, each Immigration Court judge is presiding over about 6000 cases.
- There are thousands of immigrants who have been served with demands to appear in Immigration Court but these people have yet to be assigned a court date. This delay will only add to the backlog.
- The winter of 2013-2014 was plagued by snow days all over the country which caused even more Immigration Court cases to be adjourned due to weather.
As a veteran immigration attorney I have observed that even when the caseload was approximately one third of today’s backlog, circa 1997, certain Immigration Court calendars were triple booked, which meant that cases were put off for years.
For those who only stand to benefit from delay in lieu of deportation, the above information is in one sense a relief. But the fact is, appearing in Immigration Court is a multi year ordeal for those facing removal and their loved ones.
As always, I remind you to seek counsel from a team of veteran immigration lawyers with extensive experience in Immigration Court to protect your rights.