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It's Hard Enough to Do Immigration Law Without the Government Shutting Down

By William Vogeler, Esq. on January 08, 2019 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

As the government shutdown drags on, so do immigration proceedings.

Immigration court hearings are being pushed back -- some by years -- because of a political battle over the border wall. President Trump has threatened to continue the shutdown unless he gets $5 billion to build the wall.

Immigration law was hard before the political stalemate, but now it is practically impossible. If you want a hearing, take a number and get in a very long line.

Next Available?

2022. That's the number "Jose" got the week before his trial. He wanted to go to the Dominican Republic.

Because of the shutdown, now he will have to wait at least four more years to visit his dying mother there. At this pace, he won't even make it to her funeral.

Ashley Tabaddor, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, said immigration judges are on furlough, or unpaid leave, because of the border wall impasse. She said cases may take years to be heard.

"There is an irony of shutting down the immigration courts when the whole issue on the government shutdown is about immigration," she told Roll Call.

Growing Backlog

According to reports, the backlog of immigration cases has risen dramatically since Trump began a crackdown on undocumented aliens. As of Nov. 30, 2018, the number of pending cases had grown to 809,014 -- a nearly 50 percent increase since the president took office.

Meanwhile, federal courts are using court fees and other sources to continue operations as long as possible. Immigration courts are cutting back now; civil will be next.

Some federal courts have already issued orders to suspend all civil cases involving the federal government. The Justice Department has also asked courts to delay those cases.

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