Congress Urged to Increase Immigration Court Funding Following New Data on Backlog
New York City—Human Rights First urged Congress to properly fund immigration courts, as new data released today confirms the dire need to address the backlog in immigration court dockets. The data released today by Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) shows that the number of cases in the backlog is nearly 30 percent higher than it was in the beginning of the 2014 fiscal year.
“Congress should immediately act to address the bottlenecks and delays in the immigration courts by properly funding them,” said Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer. “The current delays leave vulnerable refugees waiting years for their day in court, prolong the separation of families and can undermine the integrity of the overall system.”
Today’s data shows that the number of case awaiting resolution before the Immigration Courts climbed to new all-time high of 445,607. California, Texas, New York, Florida, and New Jersey have the largest numbers of delayed cases pending.
In a recent background paper, Human Rights First documented the disparities in immigration court funding that have led to rising backlogs and delays in the immigration courts. These delays also make it more difficult to recruit pro bono counsel to take on immigration court cases. A wide array of former government officials and experts have called for increasing the number of immigration judges, and a recent poll conducted for Human Rights First by Public Opinion Strategies confirms that more than three-quarters of voters in 25 of the most closely-watched congressional districts believe that Congress should increase the number of judges to help ensure fair and timely immigration hearings.
Human Rights First continues to recommend that in order to to handle the incoming removal caseload and reduce the backlog, the immigration courts will need 275 to 300 additional immigration judge teams. Besides the 55 teams requested by the Department of Justice for Fiscal Year 2016, an additional 75 immigration judge teams should be added each year for three fiscal years, for a total of 225 additional teams.
“As Congress focuses on Department of Justice appropriations, it should significantly increase the number of immigration judge teams both to protect the persecuted and preserve the integrity of the immigration system,” noted Acer.