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Giving Compass' Take:
• Julia Preston and Andrew R. Calderon explain how stricter immigration policies have resulted in a longer immigration court backlog.
• How can funders work to ensure that immigration courts across the country are moving keeping up with their burden?
• Learn why immigrants are giving up court fights.
Trump administration officials used their exceptionally broad powers over the courts to impose the most far-reaching changes of any administration, in an attempt to push immigration judges to decide more cases more quickly and limit access to asylum for the influx of migrants from Central America.
The data reveal that the number of days it takes to complete a court case hit a 10-year high over the first two years of Trump's presidency. In the busiest courts, including New York, Los Angeles and Houston, some judges are scheduling hearings to decide cases in 2023, since their calendars are entirely booked for four years out.
In a surge that peaked in June, record numbers of families have streamed to the border to plead for asylum, triggering a legal process that added tens of thousands of cases to be decided. So far this year, more than 314,000 people traveling in families, mostly from Central America, were caught at the southwest border.
Even if the new asylum rule, which is likely to face legal challenges, succeeds in reducing the flow of cases into the courts, it would still take years at the current pace to reduce the backlog to manageable levels.
Some of the new policies were ordered by the president, while Justice Department officials, especially former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, made extensive use of their authority to intervene in the immigration courts.
The resulting overload is affecting courts across the country—like the one in Denver, which has one of the longest wait times for cases to be completed, an average of 962 days, according to data compiled by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.
n his earliest actions as president, Trump issued executive orders cancelling Obama’s priorities and sharply restricting prosecutors from exercising discretion to suspend any deportation.
Sessions, as attorney general, went further. Using his power to overrule immigration judges—who are employees of the Justice Department, not an independent judiciary—Sessions issued an opinion eliminating judges’ authority to suspend or terminate cases. For years, judges say, they had routinely used that authority to set aside less urgent cases, allowing them to concentrate more efficiently on complex asylum or criminal cases.
An analysis of Justice Department figures shows that the administration’s orders have been followed. The use of suspensions has plummeted in the past two years.
Now prosecutors are instructed to pursue every deportation and judges have little choice but to proceed with almost every case.
Read the full article about the American immigration court backlog by Julia Preston and Andrew R. Calderon at The Marshall Project.