A massive system backlog which is compounded by a worsening shortage of judges threatens to thwart President Trump’s plans to deport millions of illegal immigrants.
The administration is already inheriting a hefty backlog of cases from the Obama administration, according to a recent government audit which found that it takes almost a year to settle a deportation case.
But with more than a third of immigration judges now eligible for retirement, along with the fact that it takes approximately two years to hire a new immigration judge, that backlog will only get worse; especially since the findings also suggest that the recruitment of new judges is not keeping up with the ever-growing caseload.
“Unless more court slots are filled, those individuals will not be removed from the United States,” said Art Arthur, a former federal immigration judge who oversaw cases in York Immigration Court in York, Pa.
Two weeks after the Government Accountability Office released the report, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a third round of new immigration judge appointments, bringing the total to 326 immigration judges currently serving, according to a Fox News report. The GAO found that nearly 40 percent of current judges are eligible to retire, and it took an average of 742 days to hire new judges from 2011 through 2016.
Even though Trump’s proposed fiscal 2018 budget would provide $80 million to hire 75 new immigration judges, Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform, a pro-border enforcement advocacy group says that’s still not enough.
“The Trump administration still has to deal with a lot of what it inherited from the Obama administration’s catch-and-release policy,” he said. “Instead of catch and release, it should have been detain or send across the border. To do that, you need more judges and more courtrooms.”
According to the GAO report, challenges facing the immigration review agency between fiscal 2006 and 2015 and include a steady backlog which began to grow exponentially in 2010, when Obama was in charge of it.
Arthur explained that the problem with the backlog is that judges who grant a continuance of a case only have fewer cases to deal and and no repercussions.
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