Arguing for more immigration court judges

The Bipartisan Policy Center testified on January 20 to the House Judiciary Committtee subcommittee on immigration and citizenship. The immigration court backlog was 1,596,000 in December 2021. While Trump was in office, the backlog soared from 542,000 to 1,290,000, then rose by about 300,000 in Biden’s first year. (backlog data from TRAC).

In 1998 there were about 200 judges. In 2016 there were about 400 judges. There are about 500 immigration court judges today. Between 2016 and the end of 2021, the case backlog rose by over 300% while the number of judges rose by 25%

Summary of the testimony: A pattern emerged in 2014 in which border crossers did not try to, but rather, sought out being arrested and seek asylum. This led to Homeland Security releasing many rather than hold them in detention awaiting their asylum court hearing. Making the judges work faster, which was the Trump approach, demanding faster court processing, is not the answer. The Center recommended in 2019 hiring 375 more judges, which would cost $400 million vs $25 billion for Trump’s border wall. Hiring 100 more judges would reduce detention costs by close to one billion dollars.

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