The U.S. legal system is handling such a large amount of immigration cases, several will not make it to trial until 2020.
There are currently 478,675 pending immigration cases in the U.S. court system, according to data tracked by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC). Mexicans are the most represented nationality with 117,653 pending cases.
Many cases currently on the books will only be addressed well into 2017, and others will even have to wait until 2020, according to the National Association of Immigration Judges (NAIJ). The federal immigration courts have 277 judges on the bench handling these many cases. The ratio of judges per case is 1 to 1,815.
As recently as 2006, cases were far more manageable. Even though there were only 230 judges then, they only had to contend with 168,827 — meaning each judge only had to handle 734 cases.
Many of the country’s immigration judges are particularly well paid for their increasingly stressful work. The six judges that sit on the Boston Immigration Court rake in between $137,000 and $167,000 a year. But some of these immigration judges often ignore the recommendations of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and do not deport many individuals DHS thinks must leave the U.S.
Another TRAC report from August, found that 57 percent of immigrants who could have been deported so far in fiscal year 2016, were granted favorable rulings by various immigration courts, letting them stay in the U.S. Forty-four percent of the illegal immigrants allowed to remain in the U.S. were from gang-troubled Northern Triangle countries: Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.
El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras rank in second, third, and fourth place, respectively, in terms of the number of illegal immigrants involved in pending immigration cases. Salvadorans have 97,432 pending cases, Guatemalans have 73,547 pending cases and Hondurans have 66, 117 pending cases.
Combined, the Northern Triangle countries’ pending immigration cases are almost double those of Mexican cases, at 237,096 in comparison to Mexicans’ 117,653 pending immigration cases.
“The problem was created by the fact that we have built in so many layers of appeal for people who are contesting their removal from the US.,” Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) spokesman Ira Mehlman told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “What the attorney have discovered is that it does two things: it generates more fees for them and it increases the chances that their client will get to remain in the US.”
While an illegal immigrant’s case is pending, they are allowed to apply for a work permit and remain in the U.S. Hondurans and Salvadorans have the added advantage of being from Temporary Protected Status (TPS) countries, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which means they have special privileges that non-TPS illegal immigrants do not get.
“They [USCIS] need to remember first of all that the ‘T’ in TPS stands for Temporary. You have situations where the event that triggered TPS happened years ago,” is the central problem in the TPS system in Mehlman’s opinion.
“You look at most countries where TPS has been extended, some of these go back years and years. The argument seems to be that until these countries turn into The Garden of Eden that we’re not going to be able to ever send anybody home,” the FAIR spokesman told TheDCNF.
As illegal immigrants from TPS countries, Hondurans and Salvadorans can obtain temporary residency and cannot be deported. USCIS assigns TPS status to individuals from countries that are enduring ongoing wars or suffering in the wake of a major natural disaster.
Syria is another TPS country. The war-torn Middle Eastern country currently has 906 pending immigration cases.
TheDCNF reached out to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary and the House Judiciary Committee for comment. The Senate Committee on the Judiciary did not get back to TheDCNF. The House Judiciary Committee referred TheDCNF to two bills that were not directly pertinent to the court system’s backlog.
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