TRAC – a Syracuse University independent project that compiles data on immigration court (EOIR) dockets released its most recent report in late 2019. The findings are brutal for the Trump Administration. Since 2017, EOIR backlogs have increased from 542,411 cases to over one million. Depending on the city they live in, immigrants may have a four year wait to see an immigration judge. In Los Angeles we are already seeing court cases being set for 2022.
There are several reasons for this giant increase in wait times. In May 2018, then Attorney General Jeff Sessions took away the ability of immigration judges to use their discretion to administratively close cases and essentially removing them from their dockets. Also all the previously closed cases were put back in the system. To put this in context, Jeff Sessions’ order created more havoc within EOIR than all the migrants coming to the southern border seeking protection.
Trump’s Executive Order to target every immigrant and not just those convicted of crimes also increased the number of people who could potentially get summoned to appear before an immigration judge. Legal permanent residents or green card holders who in the recent past would have been spared deportation if they had minor offenses could potentially find themselves facing removal proceedings. Even naturalized citizens may have their cases reopen if the government has evidence – however tenuous – that they should not have been granted citizenship.
EOIR has 442 immigration judges and each judge has about 2000 cases. Though many judges have been been hired recently, since 2017 – about 100 have left their jobs or retired. According to president of the National Association of Immigration Judges – Judge Ashley Tabaddor, many of the departing judges did not like being micromanaged by the Trump Administration.
Delayed justice is not the only negative effect of the EOIR mismanagement. The doubling of the number of cases, taking away judge’s discretion to adjudicate matters resulting in them quitting or retiring, and the sheer size of administrative staff to reduce this Trump-made mayhem is paid by our tax dollars. On top of this huge economic hit, the societal damage goes beyond just the immigrant communities. Every single one of us feels the tension, grief, and heartache created by this lawlessness and unnecessary cruelness.
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