The government shutdown took its toll on the nation’s immigration courts

(CNN)The government shutdown over President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall has paralyzed the nation’s already bogged-down immigration courts.Judge Ashley Tabaddor, the president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, described judges in Los Angeles coming back this week to boxes filled to the rim with mail that had piled up over the course of the 35-day shutdown.”Everybody did the best they could,” Tabaddor said. “It’s just a lot of trying to work with our hands tied behind our back.”The government shutdown centered on Trump’s immigration agenda.

His $5.7 billion request for his signature wall along the US-Mexico border, and congressional Democrats’ refusal to give him that money, brought the government to a grinding halt — including immigration courts.Trump has repeatedly criticized the nation’s immigration system, specifically taking issue with the practice of releasing immigrants while they await their court date.

To remedy that, his administration has sought to hire more immigration judges in the hopes of unclogging the court. Even so, the shutdown seems to have put those efforts behind.The only cases that moved forward during the shutdown were those of immigrants in detention. All others were postponed. Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, which tracks immigration court data, estimated that more than 42,000 immigration court hearings had been canceled as a result of the shutdown — exacerbating an issue Trump pledged to resolve.

“What this does is it adds greater delay to the cases. We were shortchanged five or four weeks of time,” Tabaddor told CNN. “Not only were we not able to hear cases that were previously cases that were scheduled, but it’s going to take time to regroup.

“Executive Office for Immigration Review spokeswoman Kathryn Mattingly said in a statement that “non-detained immigration cases that were continued due to the partial government shutdown will be rescheduled to the earliest available hearing date on the immigration judge’s calendar.”EOIR, which is within the Justice Department, warned the American Immigration Lawyers Association last Friday that there might be “some confusion” as non-detained courts reopened.Jeremy McKinney, an immigration lawyer in North Carolina and treasurer of AILA, confirmed that there was some confusion Monday, but otherwise business continued as usual as cases already scheduled for the week proceeded. The issue, though, is all the cases that preceded those this week and had to be postponed.

By Priscilla Alvarez, for CNN

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