The nation’s immigration courts already were facing an overwhelming backlog of cases before Donald Trump shut down the federal government two weeks ago. Now, the Trump shutdown is delaying immigration cases even more because immigration judges are among the hundreds of thousands of government employees being furloughed.
With the shutdown on its 14th day, with no resolution in sight, almost all of the immigration court hearings that were scheduled for the past two weeks will need to be rescheduled for a later date.
For asylum seekers and others hoping to stay in the states, that means the already lengthy process of receiving a decision from a court system that is burdened with an historic backlog of cases will be extended.
For Trump, who says he’s holding out until Democratic lawmakers agree to earmark over $5 billion for a mythical border wall, this means the president is shooting himself in the foot on claims that undocumented immigration currently poses a national threat.
As of this writing, Trump had tweeted six times on Saturday about border security and the wall. “Great support coming from all sides for Border Security (including Wall) on our very dangerous Southern Border. Teams negotiating this weekend!” Trump tweeted in an outburst targeting the news media.
Hours later, the president admitted that “Not much headway [had been] made today.”
The problem with immigration courts is just one area where administration and agency officials are having to scramble to respond as the shutdown drags on. A report in The Washington Post noted that the Trump administration had not anticipated a long-term shutdown, and “recognized only this week the breadth of the potential impact.”
“The scale of the consequences also reflects a deep disconnect between Trump, who has largely cheered on a prolonged shutdown, and the officials running federal agencies, who are trying to minimize the fallout,” the report said.
In terms of immigration courts, CNBC said that many of those who might have been deported could now remain in the country, perhaps for years.
American Immigration Lawyers Association executive committee member Jeremy McKinney told CNBC that the shutdown “could not have come at a worse time due to this unprecedented backlog” of cases. Before they were furloughed, about 400 immigration judges faced about 800,000 pending cases.
While the report noted that immigrants held in detention centers would see their court hearings move forward as planned, all other cases would be rescheduled. The average wait time for immigration court hearings is nearly two years, CNBC said, citing Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse. At other courts, the wait is over four years.
But who’s really counting with all this winning?