Trump Administration's Emphasis On Border Cases Is Increasing Backlog In Immigration Courts

Oct 9, 2017
Originally published on October 9, 2017 5:35 pm

A backlog of immigration hearings nationwide continues to grow because judges are being reassigned as the Trump administration focuses on asylum hearings in border towns, according to a recent investigation by  Telemundo 51 and NBC 6 South Florida. 

Myriam Masihy, consumer investigative reporter for Telemundo 51 and NBC 6 South Florida, investigated the backlog and joined WLRN’s Tom Hudson Friday to talk about the report on The Florida Roundup.

For the full NBC 6 investigative report, click here

"Any time that you have to see an immigration judge here in South Florida is going to take you a year and a half to get in front of that judge. In Chicago it's five years, in Atlanta, more than four years," says Masihy. "That's having an impact on immigrants."

"In South Florida 31,219 cases are backlogged. Nationwide is 617,000 cases and that has been increasing. Since 2009 it has almost doubled," says Masihy. 

Masihy explained that immigration courts depend on the Department of Justice (DOJ) and as such have to follow the guidelines or priority policies that each administration sets. "This administration has decided that border cases are priority and they want to tackle that backlog, so judges are sent from cities like Miami and all over the country to detention centers, most of them near the border," she said. 

"It's a sit-and-wait situation even for the lawyers that we have spoken to. They are getting ready for a hearing and all of a sudden they get a little notice that it was canceled and when they call and ask what happened, 'Oh, the judge was sent to the border again.' So it's not really up to them in many cases," said Masihy.

"It's the Department of Justice that directs these judges to go up to two weeks at a time, but they are being sent out a lot," says Masihy. "We had 13 judges [from South Florida] sent out and nationwide 139 judges were temporarily reassigned to these detention centers."

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