In response to the 'paralysis' facing immigration courts, dealing with over 500,000 pending cases, President Trump is deploying 50 judges to immigration detention facilities across the United States, according to two sources and a letter seen by Reuters.
As the Associated Press points out, there are 58 immigration courts in 27 states around the country with a total of 301 judges. The problem, of course, is that those 301 judges already face a mountain of 534,000 pending immigration cases which is likely to balloon even higher under Trump's administration.
Of 374 authorized immigration judge positions, 301 are filled. Fifty more candidates are in various stages of the hiring process, which typically takes about a year, said Kathryn Mattingly, a spokeswoman for the Executive Office for Immigration Review.
In all, more than 534,000 cases were pending before immigration courts nationwide in February, according to a recent memo from Kelly.
The massive backlog means that processing errors are a common occurrence and ultimately just result in illegal immigrants getting a free pass to reside in the country even longer, which is unacceptable to President Trump, and as Reuters reports the Department of Justice is also considering asking judges to sit from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., split between two rotating shifts, to adjudicate more cases, the sources said. A notice about shift times was not included in the letter.
Two sources familiar with the Justice Department's plan said the department would ask more judges to volunteer for one or two month deployments at detention centers. If the department cannot find enough volunteers, the department would assign judges to detention centers, the sources said. Judges who volunteer for the first 50 deployments would be sent to detention centers in Adelanto, California; San Diego, Chicago and elsewhere, according to the letter.
Judges are employed by the Justice Department to oversee cases that determine if immigrants are given protections, such as asylum, or ordered deported. A handful of judges work from detention centers but most work from courts around the country.
Of course, as we noted previously, one way to relieve the court burden is to simply increase deportations without using the court system at all, a strategy that has the American Civil Liberties Union Immigrants' Rights Project, and the 1,000s of immigration lawyers that earn a living filing appeal after appeal, up in arms.
Advocates worry the Trump administration will increase the use of procedures that allow authorities to deport people without using the court system at all.
"Instead of actually trying to make the courts better, they just want to use them less, even though that obviously is deeply problematic from a due-process standpoint," said Omar Jadwat, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Immigrants' Rights Project.
Mehlman agrees the system is broken, but said advocacy groups and lawyers who keep filing new motions and appeals are part of the problem.
"They understand that time works to their benefit and that the longer you can drag this out, the more bites at the apple you can get, the greater the likelihood that you can find some plausible reason for remaining here in the United States," he said.
The Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment.