Millions of immigrants are waiting to have their cases heard by a judge in the United States. Unfortunately, many of these immigrants have to wait for several months, even years, before their cases are heard. Why is this? The immigration system has a current backlog of almost 350,000 cases waiting to be heard.
The backlog can create many challenges for immigrants, and this backlog may only get worse during 2014. As many as 220 judges in the immigration court system are eligible for retirement this year, meaning that the backlog could significantly increase if there are fewer judges able to hear cases.
Immigration courts in the U.S. already have 32 judge vacancies, which is part of the reason for the current backlog. The lack of judges has led to judges being overworked, and many immigrants with asylum claims are left waiting months and years before their case is heard.
Some officials are worried that the backlog is causing judges to be overwhelmed and could lead to more judges retiring this year compared to previous years. The Executive Office said that only five percent of judges retire each year, but many expect more judges to retire this year due to the backlog and difficult working conditions.
The backlog can cause heartache for immigrants waiting to have their cases heard. In some cases, long delays can mean witnesses may be less reliable due to their memory not being as clear. This can lead to some immigrants losing their case due to the backlog and long delays, forcing them to possibly be deported and separated from the family.
Immigrants should be aware of the backlog and delays in the immigration court system and discuss their cases with an immigration attorney to see what their best options are.
Source: CBS Miami, "Nearly Half Of All Immigration Judges Eligible For Retirement In 2014," Dec. 25, 2013