Finally: Capacity Cited In Immigration Courts Crisis

For the “about time” file, discussion of the ongoing crisis of unaccompanied Central American children seeking refuge in the U.S. is moving beyond theories and finger-pointing to address the capacity issue. And that issue is that there’s not enough court capacity.
The Reuters news service has a sobering report that walks us through the numbers: “… U.S. immigration courts have a backlog of 375,373 cases, almost 50,000 more than they faced two years ago, according to Justice Department figures… one of the 243 judges presiding over 59 immigration courts in the United States, is setting hearing dates as far off as 2018. It now typically takes three to five years for cases to clear the system, judges and lawyers said… on a recent Wednesday at a crowded immigration court in Arlington, Virginia, a judge was setting February 2017 asylum hearings for juveniles. While Reuters does not mention it, we would add that this is possible because immigration courts are civil, not criminal, and thus exempt from decades of “timely trial” laws.
The report does cite budget cuts and other problems, like passing more complex laws without increasing capacity to implement the changes, but also says that the government’s planned solutions are likely to only make things worse.