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How the Trump administration has hindered immigration courts

Citizens of Arizona may be interested to learn that despite the Trump administration promising to streamline the legal immigration system, plenty of the decisions made by the administration have proven deleterious to the immigration courts, the latest of which has been the government shutdown and how it has been causing the cancellation of 20,000 cases every week. Experts believe that if the shutdown persists until the end of January, the number of backlogged cases during these five weeks could be more than 100,000.

During Trump's first 16 months as president, the backlog of immigration court cases grew by about 33 percent, reaching 714,000 cases. To make matters worse, this increase in the number of cases that have no scheduled court date is not due to an increase in the number of case filings but rather due to decisions made by the Trump administration.

Of all the decisions made by the current administration concerning immigration policy, two stand out as clear reasons for the increasing backlog. To begin with, Trump took from immigration judges an important schedule management tool that helped them temporarily skip a case that could only be resolved by the intervention of a federal agency. Another thing the administration did was to scatter judges all across the U.S. with an emphasis on courts near the border. However, when a judge is reassigned, the backlog they leave behind remains untouched gathering dust as long as no other judge picks it up.

The end result is that the number of backlogged cases reached record highs back in May 2018 and has been climbing higher ever since. Before the shutdown, there were about 809,041 cases that were yet to see a day in court. Therefore, any immigrant whose case has been postponed might want to reach out to a lawyer with experience in U.S. immigration law, who may inform them of the legal options available to them as well as the areas in which they are most vulnerable.

Source: Thinkprogress.org, "Trump's shutdown is adding 20,000 cases per week to the record-high immigration court backlog," Alan Pyke, January 14, 2019.

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