US Immigration Courts Backlogged Due to Influx of Undocumented Immigrant Minors
The U.S. Immigration Courts are reportedly overwhelmed with immigration cases, but despite President Barack Obama's efforts to ease the border crisis, the courts will see a further backlog of cases.
According to National Association of Immigration Judges President Dana Leigh Marks, who has been presiding over immigration cases since 1987, "We are reaching a point of implosion, if we have not already reached it."
The Department of Justice noted, according to Reuters, that the U.S. immigration courts have a backlog of 375,373 cases, approximately 50,000 more cases than in 2012. According to Judge Marks, she has scheduled immigration cases as far as 2018. Marks is one of the 243 judges making decisions for the more than 59 immigration courts in the U.S.
The immigration courts' backlog stem from the influx of undocumented immigrant children from Central America, specifically El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. The three Central American countries are experiencing issues such as poverty and violence. As a result, children are making the trip north through Mexico to enter the U.S. Unfortunately for some children, further trouble during the trip to the U.S. may include encounters with drug cartels, human smugglers, rapists or other dangers.
Congressional funding for the immigration courts has been mixed. In 2012, Congress allocated $302 million for the immigration courts, but the funding fell to $289 million for 2013. In 2014, funding increased to $312 million. The White House also projected about 90,000 undocumented children will enter the U.S. this year, but the figure is expected to rise to 150,000 for 2015. President Barack Obama has asked Congress to fund 75 additional immigration judges and told the courts to prioritize the cases of the undocumented children.
As Latin Post reported, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, introduced bipartisan legislation called the Helping Unaccompanied Minors and Alleviating National Emergency (HUMANE) Act. The HUMANE Act would allow undocumented minors to make their claim to stay in the U.S. to an immigration judge within seven days of the child's Health and Human Services screening, which is required by the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008. The Act includes a provision for immigration judges to make decisions on whether an undocumented immigrant minor can stay in the U.S. within 72 hours after the child makes their plea.
The HUMANE Act has yet to receive the support of Obama, but lawmakers, such as the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, have voiced their opposition despite Rep. Cuellar being a member of the same caucus.
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