Backlogs In Immigration Courts Keep Asylum Seekers In Limbo For Years

Jaime said he had no future in El Salvador because of the rampant gang violence. So he fled to the U.S., like many others, hoping for a better life. But he said he doesn’t know whether he has a future here either — and he won’t know for years.

His asylum case is among more than 20,000 deportation cases pending in Illinois immigration courts, a number almost five times higher than the number of cases a decade ago. This means the average wait time for a hearing date at the Chicago courthouse is now nearly three years.

“I have to wait that long to know what’s going to happen,” Jaime said. “For me (it’s) living like, what is going to be my future?”

Jaime, 31, who left El Salvador in 2006 to escape the violence and discrimination against gay people, now lives in Evanston and is seeking asylum in the U.S. so he can stay with his American husband, Benjamin, 37.

The pair, who asked to be identified only by their first names due to the pending case, said they expected the process to take a year, maybe a little more.

Instead, the judge set Jaime’s hearing date for April 2018 — over three years away at the time of their initial hearing.

Jaime and Benjamin said they try to focus on day-to-day life, but they are constantly reminded of the uncertainty of Jaime’s status. Having children, buying a house or even getting a pet doesn’t make sense until they know whether Jaime will be able to stay in the U.S.

By Jeanne Kuang for Chicago Tribune
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