Government shutdown delayed 37,000 immigration hearings

US flagThe shutdown of the US government last year resulted in the delaying of over 37,000 immigration hearings by months, and even years in some cases, for immigrants who have already waited in long lines in order to plead to be given green cards or asylum.

The immigration courts may now be back up and running as normal, but immigrants who should have seen a resolution to their cases back in October have instead seen their lives effectively put on hold.  Some had already waited several years to try and acquire a hearing date in the courts, which decide whether or not immigrants can remain in the United States or should be deported.  These courts were notoriously backlogged already, and have now seen many hearings delayed until later in 2014 and even next year in some cases, the Associated Press claims.

“This is a big task, and not one that can be accomplished quickly, especially given our current staffing shortage,” says an October 17th email written by Chief Immigration Judge Brian O’Leary to court administrators and immigration judges.  On October 16th O’Leary had sent a separate email telling staff members that there were more than 37,000 deferred hearings and that many immigrants would not have their day in court until 2015.

The immigration court system was already bedeviled by a shortage of judges, a ballooning caseload and waits of several years, and has now been further strained as a consequence of last year’s shutdown of the federal government.