Shutdown-Delayed Immigration Cases Could Further Strain Backlogged System

The partial government shutdown, in part prompted by disagreement over federal immigration policy, means most of the country’s immigration courts are not hearing cases.


Among the sweeping consequences of the ongoing federal government shutdown, immigration courts across the country are closed. From member station WHYY, Laura Benshoff reports that diverted cases could further strain a system already plagued by backlogs.

LAURA BENSHOFF, BYLINE: Immigration attorney Matthew Archambeault spent the last day of 2018 tidying his office in Philadelphia. But he hasn’t yet called up clients to tell them they don’t have to show up in court.

MATTHEW ARCHAMBEAULT: I kind of mentioned it to a few of the clients that, you know, there might be a chance that their hearings are not going to go forward because of the government shutdown. I don’t like to get into it too much to them because it can be confusing.

BENSHOFF: Confusing because a delay in their hearings doesn’t actually have anything to do with the facts of their cases. And the government shutdown could end at any time. When the government shut down, the U.S. Department of Justice, which oversees federal immigration courts, sent out a notice. Immigration cases scheduled for hearings during the shutdown would be reset. The exception are the courts that work with immigrants who are already detained.

Those federal employees are working with no guarantee they’ll be paid. Ashley Tabaddor, an immigration judge in Los Angeles and the president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, says this is all happening when these courts already face a heavy workload.

ASHLEY TABADDOR: We don’t even have the time to be able to adequately really consider each case, much less have to spend extra time to think about what we’re going to do with all the cases that have to be rescheduled.


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