TRAC Numbers Demonstrate Need for Immigration Court Funding to Address Worsening Backlogs
New York City – Human Rights First today urged Congress and the Obama Administration to work together to increase funding and resources for U.S. immigration courts. The call comes in the wake of a newly released Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) report numbers citing nearly half a million pending cases before U.S. Immigration courts and an all-time high of 635 days average wait time for adjudication of cases. The updated August numbers released yesterday show 456,644 removal cases pending in immigration courts.
“The immigration courts are overwhelmed and woefully under-resourced, forcing refugees who are seeking protection from persecution and violence to often wait years before receiving the legal recognition necessary to bring their children to safety and rebuild their lives in the United States,” said Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer. “Asylum seekers are now waiting longer than ever to have their cases heard. We urge Congress and the administration to immediately act to address the severe backlogs in the immigration courts threatening the integrity of the U.S. asylum system by properly funding the courts and increasing the number of immigration court judges.”
Additionally, along with the release of the numbers, TRAC noted that “the projected total time from the date their case was filed until their hearing date is scheduled is now 1,071 days — or just under three years (35.2 months).”
Human Rights First continues to call on Congress to allocate funding for an additional 280 immigration judges. The organization has estimated that, in addition to 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. It 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.
“Without an adequately funded immigration court system asylum seekers will continue to languish in legal limbo and the United States immigration system will remain stretched well beyond its limits. These backlogs and delays can also undermine the integrity of the immigration removal system.” added Acer.
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.