Partial government shutdown creating backlog of local immigration cases

(Source: KGBT Photo)

The fourth week of the partial government shutdown is underway and its effects are trickling down to the local level.

“Since the government shutdown, we’ve had our non-detained docket been shut down, essentially,” said McAllen-based immigration attorney, Carlos Garcia.

The federal standstill is causing a backlog of immigration cases in an already busy court docket.

Since the beginning of the shutdown, there’s been an estimated 42,000 immigration court hearings cancelled nationwide, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearing house (TRAC), a non-partisan data gathering center at Syracuse University.

If the standstill continues through the end of January, TRAC estimates that nearly 13,111 cases will be cancelled in Texas alone.

“It is a person’s life,” said Garcia. “It makes it difficult for a person to plan because nobody knows what’s going to happen with that case until an immigration judge hears that case for the final time.”

It’s not just Garcia’s clients who are affected.

Court staff, attorneys who represent the government and federal court judges are working without pay.

In Harlingen, five judges rotate the immigration docket. Right now, only one of those judges is presiding over emergency immigration cases.

CBS 4 reached out to the Department of Justice’s regional spokesperson for comment via email. The officer replied with an automated message which read, “the appropriation that funds my salary has lapsed, and as a result, I have been furloughed.”

A banner at the top of the Department of Justice webpage says that, “due to the lapse in appropriations, Department of Justice websites will not be regularly updated.”

Garcia said the shutdown’s effect will likely have a lasting impact on local immigration cases.

“Those are going to be reset whenever the government opens back up.,” he said. “And it’s generally going to make that case delayed perhaps a year, perhaps two years. There’s really no telling.”

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