Here’s How the Shutdown Delayed Hundreds of Immigration Hearings in Utah — and Led to at Least One Man’s Deportation

He had been told by Homeland Security to buy a plane ticket to Mexico.

The man was in the United States illegally, but his immigration attorney, Adam Crayk, said he had planned to file a motion to reopen the case and delay his deportation so they could argue before a judge that he should be able to stay.

His wife is a U.S. citizen, Crayk said, and he had come back to the United States years ago after she fell on hard times. His attorneys were planning to challenge some of the documentation that led to the latest deportation order.

But there was no one there to file the case. No judge to decide whether it should be reopened — or if the man should be able to stay in the country while his case is pending.

Instead, the man was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement earlier this month and sent back to Mexico.

This is one of the outcomes of the longest government shutdown in history, where immigration courts were shuttered but ICE agents still on the job. And even as the shutdown reached its end Friday, the 35-day shuttering of immigration courts is expected to have implications on cases for months to come.

Hundreds of immigration cases in Utah were canceled after the shutdown began in late December, according to data from the Transaction Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC). The nonprofit research center based at Syracuse University estimated that more than 40,000 immigration cases have been canceled as of Jan. 11. And as the shutdown stretched on, it estimates that another 20,000 hearings are canceled every week.

TRAC estimated that if the shutdown had made it to the end of January, more than 86,000 hearings would be canceled nationwide.

Utah was not the hardest-hit state — places like California, New York and Texas have had tens of thousands of cases delayed. Utah had a few hundred cancellations, and it would have been nearly 600 by Feb. 1.

Crayk said his law office had deportation trials scheduled for clients almost every day this month, sometimes two in one day.

By Jessica Miller for THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE
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