Human Rights First Applauds Inclusion of Funding for Immigration Courts in Omnibus Package
New York City – Human Rights First today welcomed the inclusion of a provision in the omnibus spending package to provide funding that will increase the staffing of the immigration courts by 55 immigration judge teams. This important boost will increase the capacity of the immigration courts to handle the backlog of removal cases pending before it, which have an average wait time for adjudication of more than 600 days.
“Appropriators from both sides of the aisle deserve credit for this bipartisan commonsense initiative,” said Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer. “While this is an important step in the right direction, in order to properly handle pending and incoming cases in a timely and fair manner, the immigration courts will need additional capacity as well. The courts need to be right-sized so that bottlenecks don’t continue to grow and they have the capacity to address the cases referred into the removal process by the U.S. immigration enforcement and service agencies.”
As of November 2015, 463,627 cases were pending before the immigration courts nationally. The most recent calculations, completed by Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) in August 2015, indicated the average projected wait time is 1,071 days, just under three years. Human Rights First has estimated that, in addition to the 55 teams included in this spending package, an additional 75 immigration judge teams should be added each year for three fiscal years, for a total of 225 additional teams. The organization notes that the continued growth in the number of pending cases before the court and the increasing wait time highlights that these additional teams are needed now more than ever.
Human Rights First and a range of other groups and experts from across the political spectrum have called for an increase in immigration judges and staff, including the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, other faith-based and refugee assistance groups, and the Association of Pro Bono Counsel, which consists of the pro bono leaders of many of the nations leading law firms.