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Why Do Immigration Cases Take So Long?

Over the last decade, the average amount of time it takes to resolve an immigration case has increased from 198 days to 650 days. In the process, a backlog of more than 585,000 cases has amassed. That is a lot of people left in legal limbo.

According to an article from Immigration Impact, the reason for the increased duration for resolving an immigration law case is not quite what everyone thought it was.

The Number Of Immigration Judges Has Increased

While many have blamed insufficient staffing for the problems with immigration cases, the reality is that the number of immigration judges has actually increased over the last decade, by 17 percent. However, judges are spending more time with cases. 

Some judges say they are not being allotted enough resources and time to do necessary legal research and keep up with changing immigration laws. For this reason, the number of judge-issued continuances has increased dramatically. Judges are putting cases on hold, often to give the immigrant time to find an attorney.

The article points out that in immigration cases, people do not receive government-provided legal representation like a person would in a criminal defense case. However, having an immigration attorney has been shown to reduce the time a case takes to reach a resolution. Getting experienced counsel from the start can be very helpful.

Will Trump's Directives Make Matters Worse?

There is fear that directives coming from the current presidential administration to ramp up enforcement and deportation will only make matters worse. Judges are being transferred, including many to detention centers to speed up cases there, but the concern is that this could increase backlogs in the judges' regular courtrooms.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO), whose report forms the foundation for the article, has issued a set of recommendations to the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) for addressing the delays and backlog. Time will tell if these recommendations will be implemented and prove effective.


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