Immigration Courts' Backlog Creates Virtual Amnesty
FALFURRIAS, Texas — A backlog of nearly 400,000 immigration cases before administrative immigration judges has led to a virtual state of amnesty. Immigrants released into the country on a Notice to Appear document may wait years before being called to court due to the backlog. These long delays give people who have entered the country illegally a virtual amnesty while they await a court date that may never come.
Two immigration judges spoke out this week, calling for doubling the number of immigration judges according to an article appearing on the Arizona Daily Star by Laurie Liles and Brittany Bade. Judges Dana Leigh Marks and Denise Noonan Slavin said fixing our courts “wouldn’t be cheap, but that action must be taken to relieve the logjam of cases.”
The judges who were attending a National Association of Immigration Judges conference said defendants in their courts can face years waiting for a court date. “Immigration judges are doing so many things, we look like the guy behind the curtain in the ‘Wizard of Oz,’” Marks said of the nation’s current 227 field immigration judges.”
“Judge Marks isn't kidding,” said Breitbart Texas Contributing Editor Sylvia Longmire, “when she says the immigration courts are ‘the forgotten stepchild of the justice system.’ I have worked as an expert witness in Mexican immigration cases for almost four years and testified in over 80 cases, so I can confirm that the backlog is completely unacceptable by U.S. standards.”
“Part of the reason why immigrants believe they can come to the U.S. and stay is because if they're released from detention with just a notice to appear,” she explained, “they may not have to step in a courtroom for years because of this backlog. That's plenty of time for them to get comfortable in the U.S., find a job, get married and have children.”
Longmire further explained the problems of the courts stating, “hearings are also closed to the public and are conducted very differently than criminal proceedings, shrouding the whole process in a bit of mystery and confusion. This entire system needs to be revamped and the system provided with an enormous influx of personnel and funding if it's every going to work properly.”
Judges also have to staff for a wide contingency of problems including having translators for defendants speaking more than 200 different languages. Marks also said it may be necessary to move the immigrations judges out from under the Department of Justice. She said currently immigration judges are “the forgotten step-children of the justice system.”
Congressman Blake Farenthold (R-TX), who serves on the House Judiciary Committee and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform told Breitbart Texas in a phone interview that the House passed a bill on its final day in session before the August recess that would "significantly increase" the number of immigration judges. This bill has moved on to the Senate for consideration.
Farenthold said he would not be surprised to see this bill held hostage in the Senate "like other common sense immigration reform and border security bills that have been sent over."
"The Senate only wants a comprenhensive approach to the immigration problem," Farenthold told Breitbart Texas. "They won't fix the gas leak in the kitchen unless we get new appliances and fixtures first."
Bob Price is a staff writer and a member of the original Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX.