The Immigration courts are handling an increased case load due to a surge in immigration enforcement, but they have not received the resources needed to do so efficiently. Two stories in the news today highlight this.
The Houston Chronicle reports that the backlog at the Houston Immigration Court is at a record high and that the average wait time for cases is now 555 days.
LAURA WIDES-MUNOZ, of the Associated Press, reports that retirement eligible Immigration Judges are likely to make the problem worse. The story also highlights some of the other problems Immigration Judges experience:
Unlike other federal judges, immigration judges fall under the U.S. Department of Justice and are employees of the executive branch, not the judicial branch. Their caseload varies. In Honolulu, two immigration judges currently each have about 100 cases, while six judges in Houston have about 6,000 cases each, according to the nonprofit federal data tracker, Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.
Immigration judges have no bailiff, no court reporter and aren't guaranteed a court clerk. And while a federal judge might lean on three law clerks to help with 400 or so complaints, three immigration judges generally split one law clerk for an average of 1,500 cases.
Immigration judges also shoulder a much greater share of the legal research than other judges because 60 percent of those who come before their bench cannot afford an attorney.
Brookings Institute Fellow Russell Wheeler said the delays create additional expense for taxpayers because individuals can spend more time behind bars waiting for their cases to be resolved at a cost of about $160 per night.