President Trump many have ended the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, signing a resolution to temporarily continue funding the government until February 15, but it’s effects will likely be felt for a long time. As the nation’s immigration courts reopen around the country, attorneys say that it could take years to remedy the delays in the system caused by the spat over the border wall.
Court finally resumed hearing cases of immigrants who attempted to enter the country, most of whom are seeking asylum or fighting to lawfully stay in the country. While this should come as good news, courts now have to deal with the aftermath of an 86,000-case backlog caused by the shutdown.
California had the greatest share of cancellations, followed by Texas and New York, according to estimates by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University. They also report that the courts currently face a total backlog of more than 800,000 cases.
While this issue is hardly new and something the U.S. immigration court system has been dealing with long before the shutdown, the temporary closure of many immigration courts across the country had obviously exacerbated the problem.
“They’re going to be playing catch-up for years,” says Jennifer Williams, the deputy attorney in charge of the immigration law unit at Legal Aid in New York City.
Among the heaviest hit were the asylum applicants, many of whom have been waiting for their court dates for years. Immigration attorneys claim it may take years before courts can once again hear their cases.
Fortunately, not everyone was affected by the shutdown. Hearings for immigrants held in detention continued despite court closures. Likewise, applications for U.S. citizenship and lawful permanent residence or green cards, which are funded by filing fees, continued to be handled by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
For now, there is no clear date for when the cancelled hearings are supposed to be taken up again. The Executive Office for Immigration Review, which oversees the immigration courts for the Justice Department, could not provide an exact figure for the number of hearings delayed or when they are expected to be rescheduled.
“What is clear is that the cases that were set for trial during shutdown will likely ultimately end up at the end of the line when a new date is picked,” explained Judge Ashley Tabaddor, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges.
If you would like to learn more about this latest update to U.S. immigration policy, or have a loved one seeking immigration assistance after a delayed court hearing, 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.