Immigration Courts Face Highest Backlog in 10 Years

Eight-month waits are the norm

Dallas is facing a staggering backlog of cases in its immigration courts, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, the Dallas Morning News reports. It has reached its highest point in a decade, with 2,633 pending cases.

But Dallas wasn’t the only city feeling the strain; San Antonio and Houston, which has the longest waiting time, were the only cities with more cases.

In 1999, the city only had 1,747 cases pending. The time span included several changes: Sept. 11, 2001, the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and increased immigration enforcements measures. The relationship can't be ignored, according to immigration lawyer Isaul Verdun of The Lucio Firm PLLC.

“The enforcement side is becoming a lot more aggressive. It used to be that you could be here undocumented for years and years, get pulled over for traffic tickets, and not get deported. But specifically post 9-11, the Department of Homeland Security got established and one of their top priorities is to enforce immigration,” he said.

The cases building up are mainly people who want to get their green cards, meaning they would become legal permanent residents.

But Congress has a lot to do with the situation as well. They only allow a certain number of approvals per year, and when the limit is reached, the judges’ hands are tied.

“That’s why one of the proposals for one of the comprehensive immigration reform is to increase the number of visas allowed per category, so that would reduce the backlog. If people want to see a change we need to encourage our congressmen to increase visas per category,” he said.

As people anticipate this change under the Obama administration, numbers of people applying for green card status will likely increase.

Holly LaFon has written and worked for various local publications including D Magazine and Examiner.

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