For the thousands of immigrants who have come to the U.S. in recent weeks seeking asylum, their claims join the backlog of hundreds of thousands of cases in immigration court. The shutdown exacerbated the issue as about three-quarters of the country's immigration judges were furloughed. Judges were unable to hear about 80,000 cases, according to Ashley Tabaddor, an immigration judge and president of the National Association of Immigration Judges.
"It is likely going to take months and months before those cases can be put on those calendars. And for the people who had trial dates during the shutdown, most likely those trial dates are going to be bumped up to the back of the line," Tabaddor said. "So that means that person will have to wait another two or three or more years before they can present their cases again."
Tabaddor also said the backlogs would be eased if the courts were removed from the authority of the Department of Justice and ran independently.
"Our courts have to be independent of our prosecutor. Independent of the parties who come before us," Tabaddor said. "What we have seen are the courts being used as a political tool as an extension of law enforcement policies."
"We have grown from under 300 judges to over 400 judges. But our backlog has grown from over 600,000 cases to over 800,000 cases. … Just having more judges, just throwing more money at it is not going to solve the problem."