New York Immigration Court Backlog Grows

As one prong of the Trump administration’s efforts in addressing immigration issues centers on the judiciary aspects, resources are draining from New York City’s immigration courts– the busiest in the nation with a current backlog of some 80,000 cases. With an emphasis on the southern border, immigration judges temporarily re-assigned to hear cases in Texas and Louisiana means the docket backlog in New York courts continues to grow.

According to a National Public Radio report, at least eight of New York City’s immigration judges have been reassigned temporarily to hear cases in Texas and Louisiana. The re-assignments began in March.

The court backlog of immigration cases more than doubled under the Obama Administration with presidential moves to deport more people. However, since President Trump took office in January, the number of undocumented immigrants crossing the border has declined dramatically.

For immigrants living in the New York area, the average wait time for a hearing on an immigration case is more than two years. Hearings for these immigrants often center on issues of family or spousal reunification.

For those immigrants appearing in southern courtrooms, the wait time hovers at around one month. These cases often involve the cases of immigrants held in detention and who crossed the border illegally.

Paul Wickham Schmidt, a retired immigration judge, says the emphasis on the southern border is intended to provide a visible federal presence in an effort to dissuade illegal crossings.

“Nobody cares what’s happening on the home docket,” he says. “It’s all about showing presence on the border.”

Another federal judge, Andrew Arthur, adds that deporting immigrants who are in the United States illegally provides an immediate feedback to friends and associates in south-of-the-border countries, ultimately adding more discouragement around illegal crossing.

As reported in 2015, the immigration caseload jumped by close to 160 percent since 2007. At the crux of this increase were the deluges of unaccompanied minors who crossed the border in record-breaking numbers.  The massive increase pushed some low-priority hearings out to 2019.

The Trump Administration aims to add 50 immigration judges to the judiciary to bring the total closer to 300 judges in the immigration courts.