A report by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse says that the tally of canceled immigration hearings, currently almost 43,000 for the shutdown period, would likely grow by 20,000 for each additional week the government fails to reopen.
California, New York, Texas and Florida, altogether account for more than half of the cancellations.
“Largely, the individuals in the immigration courts and the ones getting their cases cancelled during the shutdown are on the lower end of the economic spectrum,” Alan Pollack, an New Jersey attorney said.
He’s representing an African national trying to get a green card who scheduled the green card hearing back in the summer of 2017. Now she might have to wait years for another chance.
San Francisco Immigration Court Judge Dana Leigh Marks, former president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, told PBS News last week the shutdown has had “a devastating impact.”
“Many of the cases that are being canceled for the shutdown have been on my docket already for two or three or four years, and now I have no time in the foreseeable future to reset them,” she said. “It could be another three or four years before those people can expect hearings on their cases.”
Judge Ashley Tabaddor, the president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, said the report “is consistent with our estimates.”
“We do think every day cases are being canceled. We’re looking at several thousand a day.”
While the White House has asked Congress to fund 75 new immigration judges to help clear overcrowded dockets that have ballooned in the past five years with more asylum claims, the backlog is over 800,000 cases as of November 2018.
A letter was sent to Congress last week detailing the impact. Before the shutdown, judges were scheduling cases to be heard two to three years out.
In the letter, Judge Tabaddor said:
“When a hearing is delayed for years as a result of a government shutdown, individuals with pending cases can lose track of witnesses, their qualifying relatives can die or age-out and evidence already presented becomes stale. Those with strong cases, who might receive legal immigration status, see their cases become weaker. Meanwhile those with weak cases who should be deported sooner rather than later benefit greatly from an indefinite delay.”
Meanwhile, President Trump reinforced his commitment to the border wall in a speech on Monday.
The Justice Department office that oversees the immigration courts, the Executive Office for Immigration Review, also has furloughed employees because of the shutdown.
President Trump has issued an Executive Order to close federal agencies including EOIR on Mon., Dec. 24, 2018. Immigration court hearings scheduled for Dec. 24, 2018, will be rescheduled and new hearing notices will be sent to both parties.
DOJ EOIR (@DOJ_EOIR) December 21, 2018
What is OPEN:
US Citizenship and Immigration Services are still open, and petitions for immigrant status can still be filed. Fingerprinting appointments are still occurring (without this a case can be delayed), as well as interview appointments.
And of course ICE, is open. Courts are closed except in “urgent” deportation cases.
Shutdown stalls immigration courts already facing a ‘tremendous backlog’ of cases