There are many immigrants in the United States today who are due to face the courts for any number of reasons – those seeking asylum and those facing deportation are just a few – but they are likely to have a lengthy wait ahead of them.
Over the last decade, it’s been reported that the federal immigration court system has been under a 146% increased workload, and the number of active cases that were being handled at the end of July 2015 sat at an incredible 453,948. On average, those cases have been pending 627 days – almost two years. For those immigrations looking for asylum or refugee status, it has meant a long and uncertain wait with no security in the meantime.
And why is there such a backlog of cases? When compared to the uptick in border security officers, which has almost doubled to 21,000 in the last ten years, it seems anomalous that there hasn’t been a comparative increase in judges and officials who are responsible for hearing immigration cases in the courts. The United States government has put a lot of money into security – a recent report, in fact, says that between 2002 and 2013, the budget for immigration enforcement and security rose 300% – but the same hasn’t been done for immigration courts. The report revealed that unlike border security, the court budget for immigration cases only rose by 70% between 2002 and 2013.
Immigration judges attend to, on average, 1400 cases a year, and with current circumstances they face a lot of stress and a high risk of burning out. With the system being so overwhelmed, giving cases their due is tough – judges have said that researching the complex legal points in immigration laws is stressful enough without the increased workload – but on the other hand, letting cases become lengthy means that others continue to stay on hold. This is not only to the detriment of the courts, but also the people potentially serving time, being deported, or looking to gain asylum in the US and escape persecution in their home countries.
The caseload faced by immigration judges is twice that of both Veterans Affairs and Social Security courts, and Judge Dana Leigh Marks, who is the president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, estimates it would take at least 100 more judges to clear the current backlog. That’s almost double the number proposed by President Obama in the upcoming budget for the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review.
If you or someone you know is involved in this backlog of cases and would like to talk to an immigration lawyer about the options available, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with Lyttle Law Firm, either through the website or by calling 215-512-5225.