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Immigration courts’ backlog grows during shutdown

The government shutdown is having a major impact on federal workers and their families in Indiana and across the country, but it is also affecting others as well. For example, already-massive immigration court backlogs are becoming even greater. For every week the government remains closed, the number of backlogged cases grows by 20,000. The number of delayed cases had already reached a record high, even before the shutdown began after President Trump refused to support a budget that would not fund his proposed border wall.

Since the president withdrew support for a bill to keep the government running in December 2018, over 42,726 immigration court hearings were postponed. In many of these cases, the people going to the hearings had already waited for up to four years before being scheduled in court. The immigration courts already have a backlog of over 800,000 cases, and those cancelled by the shutdown may go to the back of the line to be scheduled for a new hearing. This could pose even greater concerns for immigrants than even the continuing long delays.

In many cases, the delay before a hearing is marked by attempts to encourage an immigrant to self-deport. At times, immigration authorities may seek to detain people before their hearings. This could lead to particular vulnerabilities among some of the tens of thousands impacted. While the Trump administration claimed to want to speed up the immigration court system, this has largely meant escalating deportations rather than improving the process for immigrants.

People who are waiting for immigration hearings may be concerned about the effects of the shutdown as well as other Trump administration policies, particularly those targeting immigrants. An experienced immigration law attorney can help to protect people’s rights and work to assist them to stay in the country.