There are more than 228,000 pending cases in the nation’s Immigration Courts, an all time high, in part because of lingering judicial vacancies on the courts, according to a Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse analysis released Friday.
Immigration judges oversee deportation proceedings and make decisions on asylum, removal and adjustment of status for aliens. Unlike other federal judges, immigration judges are appointed by the attorney general and do not require Senate confirmation.
According to the Syracuse University’s TRAC, in the first few months of fiscal year 2010, the number of pending cases rose to 228,421, a 23 percent increase since the end of fiscal 2008. That number also represents an 82 percent increase from 10 years ago, according to a TRAC news release. The analysis also found that the average length of time cases had been pending has increased to 439 days. Longer wait times reach as high as 713 days in Los Angeles and 612 days in Boston, The Washington Post reported.
As of Jan. 12, 2010, there were 48 vacancies — or 17 percent of all judge positions — on the Immigration Courts, according to TRAC. To deal with the vacancies, Congress has allocated funds for additional judge positions over the past several years, The Post reports.
“The failure to fill positions that Congress has provided money for is baffling,” TRAC co-director David Burnham told The Post. “People are waiting days and days to get their cases considered, judges have less and less time to deal with each case. Clearly there’s an effectiveness issue. But it also raises really strong fairness questions.”