As the government shutdown drags into its third week, immigration courts around the country have had no choice but to cancel tens of thousands of scheduled hearings over the holidays and the start of the new year.
At least 43,000 immigration court hearings were canceled between late December last year and January 11, this according to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC). The researchers also add that this backlog is expected to balloon even further by another 20,000 cases with each week that the shutdown continues.
As the Trump administration and Congress remain at loggerheads over the president’s demands for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, many of the federal government’s non-essential functions have screeched to a halt, and that includes immigration courts. This, in turn, has disabled the country’s immigration system from dealing with the already colossal caseload consisting largely of asylum applications and other immigration claims.
The TRAC researchers found that this has affected the fates of at least 800,000 migrants thus far.
According to the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review, the courts that remain operational through the shutdown have continued hearing the cases of detained immigrants as scheduled while those who have already been released from government custody will have their hearings postponed to later dates when funding resumes.
The researchers explained that this has disproportionately impacted immigrants who have waited two, three, and sometimes even four years for their day in court.
“Since few cases are being resolved during the shutdown, each week the shutdown continues the practical effect is to add thousands of cases back onto the active case backlog, which has already topped [809,041 cases] as of the end of last November,” they added.
TRAC reports that the states hit hardest by this shutdown of immigration hearings include California, Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia. California has the highest number of affected hearings with an estimated 9,420 cancellations. New York is next with over 5,320 hearings canceled. Should the shutdown continue, these numbers will further rise to 25,000 for California and over 11,000 for New York, Florida, and Texas by the end of January.
In light of the damage the shutdown has caused thus far, a bipartisan group of senators had addressed a letter to the President, urging him to at least temporarily reopen the government.
“[We’re] committed to resolving our current budget stalemate by strengthening border security and ending the government shutdown,” the lawmakers said in the letter. “We believe that such requests deserve consideration, through regular order, a process we support.”
If you would like to learn more about this latest update to U.S. immigration policy, or have a loved one seeking immigration assistance, don’t hesitate to sit down for a consultation with the Lyttle Law Firm. Call our offices today at (512) 215-5225 to talk to immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle.