Immigration Court Backlogs are at an All-Time High in 2015
The American Immigration Council Immigration Policy Center recently published a report on the the serious under-funding of US immigration courts and the overall lack of immigration judges. (the full report is entitled “Empty Benches: Underfunding of Immigration Courts Undermines Justice” available at immigration policy.org)
The report shed light on some slightly disturbing facts regarding the lack of funding towards the ever-crowded immigration docket of the Executive Office of Immigration Review. For example, while the Department of Homeland Security’s funding for immigration enforcement increased exponentially over the recent years (politically motivated, I’m sure…) but the Department of Justice EOIR has received little funding in comparison, especially because the number of cases being referred to the courts is forever increasing.
Currently, there are only about 212 Judges sitting full-time, with nearly 100 set to retire in 2015, across 58 courts throughout the USA. The backlogs are staggering and the caseloads are unimaginable. Typically, immigration judges handle 1400 cases/year, which is significantly more than other federal judges (566/year) or social security judges (544/year). According to the report, some judges have had a case load of 3000 case per year. How is that even possible?
With immigration Judges overworked and without enough support staff, how can expect that the laws will be fairly applied? Do the Judges have enough time to prepare according for trials? This is a serious issue that the DOJ needs to address, and the government needs to spend some time thinking about wisely spending its funds. How can you step up immigration enforcement without the subsequent court (which will hear ALL those new enforcement cases) having adequate funding and support to handle all the new cases? Here in Ohio, there is one immigration court in Cleveland with three judges. If you go into your master calendar hearing today, there is a good possibility that your individual hearing will not be scheduled prior to 2019.