Here’s an interesting development: Despite adding 91 judges since November 2015, the backlog of unresolved cases pending in federal immigration courts continues to increase. Why? President Trump’s hard-line approach to immigration enforcement.
According to stats analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are arresting more people suspected of living here illegally, while the Trump administration has all but halted the Obama administration practice of using prosecutorial discretion to close deportation cases by letting those with clean records and long community ties remain in the country.
“During the first five months of the Trump Administration prosecutorial discretion closures precipitously dropped to fewer than 100 per month from an average of around 2,400 per month during the same five month period in 2016,” TRAC said in the report released Tuesday.
To be sure, with the increased number of immigration judges the courts are closing more cases than a year ago, but not nearly enough to counter the rise in new cases and the government’s push for deportation orders in nearly all circumstances.
“There is little evidence that this increase in hiring is sufficient to handle the incoming caseload,” TRAC said in an earlier report, “let alone make a dent in the court ‘s mountainous backlog.”
“Congress’s continued failure to expand the immigration court’s capacity means the increased arrests will just clog an already overloaded system.”
In fact, TRAC predicts that by the end of the federal fiscal year in September, immigration judges will issue only 20,000 more deportation orders than the previous year, for a total of about 99,000. That’s less than 1% of the estimated 11 million people living here illegally.
Where the Obama administration focused deportation efforts on “those viewed as presenting a risk to public safety or national security,” the Trump administration has told agents to arrest anyone they encounter who is living here without permission. That has had a dire effect on families.
By Scott Martelle for LOS ANGELES TIMES
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