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Immigration court backlog could grow by years after government shutdown

Edvard Pettersson, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES –– The shutdown of the federal government over the president's campaign promise to build a wall along the southern U.S. border is taking its toll on already backed-up immigration courts.

Hearings for non-detained immigrants -seekers are being taken off the calendar because of the lack of funding and will have to be rescheduled when the partial shutdown ends. The problem will be finding an opening for those cases on judges' calendars, which are already filled for the next three years or more.

"Finding available time slots to reschedule hearings could result in years of further delay," said Susan Long, co-director of Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, which gathers data on federal spending.

As of May 2018, there were 714,067 immigration cases pending. In some courts, immigrants have to wait more than four years before they get a chance to plead their case before a judge, according to TRAC data.

Judge Dana Leigh Marks, a spokeswoman for the National Association of Immigration Judges, said in a Jan. 9 interview on PBS that the impact of the shutdown has been "devastating" and that it could add three or four more years to the wait for immigrants that are on her docket.

Representatives of the Justice Department, which oversees immigration courts, did not respond request for comment.

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(Kartikay Mehrotra contributed to this report.)

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