The Obama administration has quietly delayed the deportation of 56,000 undocumented immigrants from Central America, according to a report from The New York Times.
The individuals in question all entered the United States illegally during the surge period of 2014, when several hundred thousand immigrants displaced by violence poured into the United States. The administration promised to marshal federal resources to process the immigrants through deportation proceedings in short order.
Despite a public commitment to the contrary, the administration quietly reversed course in recent months. “It amounts to an unannounced departure from the administration’s widely publicized pronouncements that cases tied to the so-called surge of 2014 would be rushed through the immigration courts in an effort to deter more Central Americans from entering the United States illegally,” the Times says.
The report indicates the policy reversal was the result of an enforcement lapse. Many of the immigrants were supposed to enroll in an ankle-bracelet electronic monitoring program, pending their appearance before an immigration judge. Tens of thousands, however, failed to report to federal agency offices to to be outfitted with the devices. As a result, many of their federally-mandated court appearances have been pushed back for years, some as late as 2023.
Each device costs the government between $4 and $8 per day to operate. Immigration officials billed the new policy as a cost-saving measure, as federal agencies will save millions by terminating the program. (RELATED: Flashback: In 2005, Tim Kaine Railed Against ‘Inflood Of Illegal Immigrants’)
The delay is also the result of an unprecedented backlog in the federal immigration courts.
There were 492,978 immigration issues pending before U.S. immigrations courts as of June — and only 250 judges in 57 jurisdictions to adjudicate them. The problem is further exacerbated by the fact that judges are confined to specific jurisdictions, and there are considerable disparities in manpower between districts.
The challenge is especially dramatic in Texas, where five immigration judges in the Houston area were hearing 39,628 cases as of June. If these judges were given one year to clear their dockets, they would have to decide 22 cases per day, assuming they worked 365 days and saw no additions. There are over 86,000 illegal immigrants awaiting a hearing in Texas, the second highest in the nation. In contrast, there are six judges in Boston, Mass., though the Boston court’s backlog, 14,531, is roughly one-third of Houston’s.
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