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Nearly Half a Million Immigration Cases are Waiting to be Heard. Here's Why.

Flickr/lcars (Public Domain)
There's an immigration case backlog, with cases waiting an average of two years to be heard.

From Texas Standard:

The Executive Office for Immigration Review, an office of the U.S. Department of Justice, is responsible for deciding immigration cases. But these days, the decisions are taking longer and longer.

That's because there are backlogs growing in the overworked courts. It's become so bad that it can take up to two years just for hearings to take place. To make matters worse, a large percentage of the judges currently working are nearing retirement. So what's the solution?


Dianne Solís has been writing about immigration for decades, most recently for the Dallas Morning News. She says several factors are at play here – one is the issue of funding. The hiring of judges hasn't kept pace with a rise in the number of cases coming to the courts.

"Many believe the courts are basically underfunded and have been for years," Solís says. "The backlog has tripled from a decade ago, as more cases have moved into the system."

Part of the problem is the shortage of judges to hear the cases. Adding more judges would help with the more than 474,000 cases piling up, Solís says the director of the immigration courts would like about a hundred more. That's in addition to replacing about a hundred current judges who are eligible for retirement soon.

More judges means more money, Solís says, but it's for an issue that ought to have bipartisan support.

"It's actually an unusual situation in that there seems to be something, a solution that would please both sides," she says. "Republicans, who say that this long wait is a de facto amnesty, could fix it if there were more judges. And Democrats ,who say that the judicial process doesn't provide due process and in fact may undermine justice, could fix it by providing more money."

The Obama administration has indeed requested more money for the courts for the next fiscal year. Whether or not they get it remains to be seen, Solís says.

Laura first joined the KUT team in April 2012. She now works for the statewide program Texas Standard as a reporter and producer. Laura came to KUT from the world of television news. She has worn many different hats as an anchor, reporter and producer at TV stations in Austin, Amarillo and Toledo, OH. Laura is a proud graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, a triathlete and enjoys travel, film and a good beer. She enjoys spending time with her husband and pets.
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