Dallas, TX (Law Firm Newswire) February 8, 2019 – Immigration courts remained closed across the United States and there were estimates of up to 100,000 canceled hearings due to an ongoing partial government shutdown that began on December 22, 2018. The situation resulted in delays for almost all federal civil cases and increased backlogs of immigration court cases.
Many federal attorneys and judges were not working for the duration of the shutdown. Most immigration judges were furloughed on December 26, 2018. Only a quarter of the courts’ 400 judges were deemed “essential.” The majority of the several thousand cases that immigration courts typically see per day were cancelled without a future date being set.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a notice on the day the shutdown began announcing that the current lapse in federal funding would not affect the agency’s operations for the most part. But some of its programs — the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Regional Center Program, the E-Verify program, the Conrad 30 Waiver Program for J-1 medical doctors, and the non-minister religious workers immigration category — will either expire or suspend operations until funding resumes or Congress reauthorizes them.
“USCIS benefits operations are user funded and as such, are not affected by the budget impasse on annual appropriations, with limited exceptions,” said Stewart Rabinowitz of the Dallas and Frisco law firm of Rabinowitz & Rabinowitz, P.C. “But immigration judges are affected and 3/4 of all immigration judges are deemed non-essential, and are not working, shutting down proceedings in all but detained cases and delaying most of the 800,000+ pending immigration court cases. Ironic, isn’t it, that a partial government shutdown over funding a border wall results in delaying the potential deportation of thousands of persons in the U.S. that the Administration is eager to remove.”
More than 800,000 active immigration cases were pending prior to the government shutdown, according to data compiled by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse based on Department of Justice records. The backlog of cases facing U.S. judges is likely to increase due to the impasse. Ashley Tabaddor, President of the National Association of Immigration Judges, called the government shutdown a “tremendous disruption to cases in an already overburdened court.”
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