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Immigration Reform News: Backlog of Immigration Court Cases Jumps to Over 445,000

First Posted: May 16, 2015 04:30 PM EDT
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A new report revealed the backlog in the overburdened federal immigration courts has increased by 68 percent since 2014, bringing the number of pending cases to an all-time high of more than 445,000.

The report, which is based on federal data, shows that the surge in court cases was largely driven by the influx of illegal immigration from Central America last summer, which included over 68,500 unaccompanied children, reports The Los Angeles Times.

As of a result, the number of backlog cases rose to 445,706 in April, which is almost a 30 percent increase since the start of the last fiscal year, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.

Following the surge, unaccompanied children's cases were given priority in the courts.

The report found that the states with the highest number of immigration backlogs include California, Texas, New York, Florida and New Jersey.

Jonathan Ryan, the executive director of the legal advocacy group Raices, claims that when the U.S. government officials prioritized unaccompanied minors and detained families, "They were not addressing the cases that make up almost all of the backlog."

"We see people coming into our office every day whose lives are being negatively impacted by this," he said of the backlog.

"Their whole family is in a state of paralysis or suspense because they can't move forward in the backlog. ... The people being prioritized in the backlog are the most vulnerable children and mothers who are essentially getting railroaded. The prioritization is backwards."

According to Lou Ruffino, a spokesman for the Executive Office for Immigration Review at the Justice Department, there are only 233 judges and 58 courts nationwide to handle these cases. However, 17 more are expected to start by the end of May, while 68 judges are currently in the hiring process.

"Part of the solution to the backlog is a vigorous, ongoing hiring process to bring on more immigration judges," he said.

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