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Border crossings add to immigration court backlog

On Behalf of | Jan 3, 2024 | immigration |

Immigration courts are struggling to cope with a record number of asylum seekers and migrants, and the problem is especially serious in border states like California. Immigration courts are the venues where asylum claims are processed and removal proceedings are held, and they are being overwhelmed by an unprecedented surge in migrant crossings. More than 12,000 migrants crossed the southern border into the United States on Dec. 19 alone.

Not enough judges

White House officials blame the immigration court backlog on a lack of resources. About 24,000 border patrol agents and more than 1,000 asylum officers and immigration judges have been added to the federal payroll to deal with the migrant surge, but far more judges are needed. Each immigration judge currently has a backlog of approximately 4,500 cases, and their backlogs are expected to rise sharply. According to media reports, some asylum seekers entering the country in December 2023 were given court appearance dates in 2029.

Growing court backlogs

The immigration court backlog has been growing steadily for several years. The number of migrants entering the United States each day increased significantly in May 2023 when Title 42 protocols ended. Title 42 allowed border patrol agents to turn migrants away without first processing them to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In December 2016, immigration judges had a backlog of 533,909 cases. That figure had more than doubled by December 2019, reaching 2,056,328 in December 2022.

Legal channels

Undocumented migrants are now facing the same kind of immigration backlogs that those seeking to enter the country through legal channels have been dealing with for decades. These problems will persist as long as millions of people around the world dream of living and working in the United States. If the legal immigration process was streamlined and made less onerous, the situation at the southern border would likely become less turbulent.