The five week government shutdown affected more people than the unpaid government employees; it also derailed the immigration court system that has yet to get fully back on track. The government shutdown halted immigration court proceedings for immigrants who were not in detention during the shutdown. Immigration hearings were cancelled during the shutdown and some of them are still not yet rescheduled. Others have been bumped back by months and even years in some cases.
Backlog and government shutdown effect
Prior to the government shutdown, there were already a backlog of hearings in immigration courts and the government shutdown has made that backlog considerably worse. It is estimated that somewhere between 50,000 and 95,000 immigration hearings were cancelled during the government shutdown and approximately 500 hearings were canceled in Utah alone. Salt Lake City deportation defense attorneys understand that the already packed court calendars were made even worse during the shutdown and they know that this has led to more frustration and hardships for immigrants who are already facing an uncertain future.
Types of immigration issues
Issues handled by immigration courts that were put off during the government shutdown include the following:
- Asylum matters for immigrants seeking asylum in the United States
- Naturalization hearings for immigrants in the process of becoming United States citizens
- Social security card, work permit, and driver’s license issues are all overseen by immigration courts
- Green card matters
- Master calendar hearings to schedule merit hearings
- Merit (individual) hearings where the court reviews an individual’s case and ultimately determines whether or not the individual will be permitted to stay in the U.S.
- Board of Immigration Appeals hearings where either the government or the immigrant appeals the immigration court’s ruling.
What this means for families
Hearing delays are very challenging and distressing for families whose future is unknown. While the delays have kept more people in the country temporarily, it does not mean that more people will be permitted to stay in the United States long term. In some especially unfortunate cases, some people who were intending to challenge a deportation decision ended up being deported while the government was shut down. People waiting for social security cards, drivers licenses, and work permits suffered setbacks as well, especially those who were waiting for these documents for employment.
Uncertain future in the immigration courts
It has been reported that some judges’ calendars are booked out as far as 2022 which is an unreasonably long amount of time to wait for a hearing to determine someone’s future. Even if more immigration judges are hired, it will still be hard to make up for the backlog that already exists. Donald Trump promised to reduce the backlog in the immigration courts while he was campaigning, but so far he has only increased the backlog.
If you or a family member have been affected by the immigration hearing backlog or are in need any other immigration services, contact a Salt Lake City deportation defense attorney at Familia America Immigration to discuss your case.