The immigration backlog problem — Part 1

A few weeks ago, we wrote a post about the incredible backlog of asylum cases that US immigration courts are dealing with. In just the last four years, pending asylum cases have skyrocketed by 800 percent. Today, we’re going to start a series of posts to look at the US immigration system as a whole, and why the backlog problem with our immigration system is unlikely to change anytime soon.

The first thing to understand about our immigration system is that the current backlog is immense. There are nearly 454,000 pending immigration cases (that figure is from the end of July) and the average amount of time each of those cases has been pending is 627 days. Many of the cases have been languishing in immigration limbo for far longer than that. The caseload is only going to increase over the coming weeks and months, too.

Another factor in this backlog problem is that financial resources are not being supplied to the immigration courts. Instead, the financial focus is being placed on border patrol agencies. From 2002 to 2013, the immigration court budget increased by 70 percent. But during the same time, the immigration enforcement budgets swelled by 300 percent. In addition, the number of border agents has almost doubled over the last decade to 21,000 agents.

So with cases backing up and financial resources being prioritized in other areas of the immigration system, how has this backlog affect immigration judges? We’ll tackle that issue in the next part of our series.

Source: Los Angeles Times, “The immigration court backlog: Why won’t Congress act?,” Aug. 26, 2015