Immigration Court Delays Worsen Due to Government Shutdown

Immigration Court Delays Worsen

Immigration Court Delays Worsen Due to Government Shutdown

January 15, 2019


The United States (U.S.) is currently experiencing its longest government shutdown in history. Unfortunately, the partial shutdown begun by President Donald Trump continues with no foreseeable end. At the center of the fight is Trump’s demand for funding for his border wall. A crucial aspect of his 2016 presidential campaign, full support and funding for the wall has proved elusive. In a bid to influence Congress, the president forced a partial government shutdown in late December.

As January passes, talks between the president and lead Democrats like Nancy Pelosi continue to stall. The Democrats, now in control of the House after 2018 midterm elections, are standing firm against the president’s demands for nearly $6 billion dollars in border wall funding. Yet, each day that the shutdown continues, the nation suffers as national parks fall prey to vandals, federal employees are furloughed, and certain crucial staff, like TSA workers, are forced to work without pay.

If the partial government shutdown has affected your life or livelihood, consult with an expert immigration lawyer. They will be able to protect your rights, represent your interests, and guide your case. This is especially important if you’ve faced court delays or cancellations, which can disrupt lives, jobs, and families.

In this article, we review one of the disastrous effects of the shutdown: immigration court backlogs. Additionally, we discuss other ways that the shutdown affects immigration across the U.S.

Immigration Court Backlogs Increase

The shutdown has closed certain immigration courts since December, leading to an unfortunate rise in already sky-high case backlogs. This is because, under shutdown parameters, the government has furloughed both immigration judges and their court staff. The only exception are those judges who oversee detainees’ removal proceedings.

According to CBS News, immigration case backlogs have reached a “record-high” backlog of 800,000 cases. Additionally, for thousands of migrants, court dates have been postponed and/or canceled indefinitely with no promised rescheduled date. Some have waited months or even years for their opportunity to resolve their cases and officially move forward with their lives. Yet, unbelievably, cancelled cases may face delays stretching into 2022.

Shutdown Woes Experienced by Immigrants

CBS News tells the story of one African immigrant waiting for a decision about a green card. Her lawyer stated that her court date in New Jersey was “indefinitely postponed” in late December. The date had been previously scheduled well over a year in advance – in July 2017. Now, it may be another year before she can see a judge. This delay is both devastating to individuals and an overburdened and struggling system.

Further, a Miami-based immigration attorney conducted a survey of 15,000 colleagues across the U.S., finding that 90% of attorneys have had cases canceled due to the shutdown. Many of these cases were for individuals who have waited long enough to learn their court decisions. She stated that the shutdown is “mentally, emotionally and financially disruptive to everyone involved.”

According to The Miami Herald, the Trump administration’s shutdown has “sowed chaos and confusion” in America’s already taxed immigration courts. One Cuban national who has fought for nearly five years for reprieve from deportation was devastated to have his court date canceled. Raised as a legal immigrant in Miami, he now states he has to “wait for the government to reopen so [he] can continue [his] life.”

Other Ways that Shutdown Affects Immigrants

The unfortunate shutdown of most immigration courts has devastated and diverted the plans of thousands of immigrants. But, what about other areas of the U.S. government that affect immigration law and decisions? Do those departments and employees also face furloughs? You can find the information below.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

The USCIS continues to operate during the partial government shutdown because its funding derives from filing fees. Thus, any paperwork or requests submitted for processing through the USCIS will continue as expected. Any unexpected delays or issues should be immediately brought to the attention of an immigration attorney.


Due to its role as a law enforcement agency, ICE currently continues to operate during the partial shutdown. This includes overseeing those removal proceedings involving detained individuals. In fact, these cases are the only immigration court litigation currently continuing at this time.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

Like ICE, the federal government considers CBP, as a law enforcement agency, essential for the function of the U.S. Yet the Catholic Legal Immigration Network highlights that some paperwork processing delays may occur due to furloughs of non-essential CBP staff.

What if the shutdown continues?

Unfortunately, any continuation of the shutdown means more suffering and hardship, especially for federal employees and those they serve. If the shutdown continues for much longer, previously protected agencies and departments may stop or slow services. Thus, residents across America should expect profound and negative effects should Trump’s border wall shutdown linger. You can read more about affected immigration departments and offices via the Catholic Legal Immigration Network.

Questions? Call a Skilled Immigration Lawyer

The shutdown hurts the American populace, including both immigrants and citizens, in profound ways. For immigrants, federal immigration practice and policy can cause uncertainty about the future. If you have an immigration question or concern, don’t hesitate to contact a qualified immigration attorney. Only a lawyer registered with your state’s bar association can provide the proper advice and guidance required during such an important time.

The passionate attorneys at Nanthaveth & Associates serve clients in Austin and across Texas. We follow government news, reforms, and immigration litigation in order to provide top tier service. Our clients receive both up-to-date expertise and skilled, effective representation – it’s our mission and our goal. Contact us today for a free initial consultation. You’ll meet with one of our expert attorneys, review your immigration case, and leave with a plan.