Trump has acknowledged that the immigration court’s enormous backlog cripples his ability to remove illegal immigrants in a timely manner, but his plan to deal with the backlog isn’t going to work.
This chart from the Executive Office for Immigration Review’s (EOIR) FY2016 Statistics Yearbook shows that the immigration judges (IJs) have not been making any progress on reducing the backlog.
At a recent Center for Immigration Studies panel discussion on the backlog, Judge Larry Burman said, “I cannot give you a merits hearing on my docket unless I take another case off. My docket is full through 2020, and I was instructed by my assistant chief immigration judge not to set any cases past 2020.”
By the end of September 2016, the backlog was up to 516,031 cases. A year later, it had grown to 629,051.
Even if the IJs did not get any new cases, it would take them more than two years to clear the backlog. Double the number of IJs and it would take a year, that is, if the backlog doesn’t increase while the new IJs are being recruited, hired, and trained.
Trump’s backlog reduction plan.
On November 1, 2017, the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security held an oversight hearing on the backlog, but the value of this hearing was severely limited by only having one witness, EOIR’s Acting Director James McHenry.
Subcommittee Chairman Congressman Raul Labrador (R-Ind.) discussed GAO’s June 2017, report on actions needed to reduce the backlog in his opening statement, but he did not have a GAO spokesman at the hearing. In addition to talking about the backlog, he expressed concern over a spike in asylum fraud.
McHenry testified that EOIR will increase its adjudicatory capacity by hiring more IJs and making the court’s operations more efficient. EOIR currently has 336 IJs.
On October 8, 2017, Trump asked congress for appropriations to hire 370 more IJs. According to McHenry, it will take up to 700 IJs to start turning the situation around.
Meanwhile, however, McHenry only expects to have 61 more IJs by spring of next year; and 39 percent of EOIR’s current IJs are eligible for retirement.
By Nolan Rappaport for THE HILL
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