Houston immigration court has thousands of cases
HOUSTON, Dec. 23, 2013 (AP): Those awaiting hearings at a
Houston immigration court should be prepared to wait for much
more than a year due to thousands of pending cases, a shortage
of judges and the more than two-week federal shutdown in
October, a report has found.
The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), a
data gathering and research organization at Syracuse
University, reported that the four judges assigned to
Houston's downtown immigration court had 16,647 pending cases in
November, up more than 250 percent since 2009. TRAC found that
the wait for hearings reached an average of 555 days, up from
298 days four years ago, according to a report in The Houston
TRAC data shows there were more than 50,000 cases pending
statewide last month. Houston's downtown court led the state
with backlogged cases, followed by San Antonio with 12,400 cases
and El Paso with 7,792.
an immigration attorney, said clients are growing frustrated
with the repeated delays, which often force them to reapply for
work authorization and renew their fingerprint checks.
``Some people want justice,'' he said. ``They want their cases
Quan said he recently told a client who came to the U.S. without
authorization 18 years ago that he would have to wait several
years for his immigration case to come up in court.
Officials with the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR),
which administers the court system for DOJ, have acknowledged
the need to hire more judges.
In 2009, the agency had 237 judges and more than 223,000 pending
cases, according to TRAC. Since then, the number of
judges has grown to 252, while the number of cases on the docket
has swollen to 350,000. The agency has 32 vacant immigration
judge positions, said Kathryn Mattingly, an EOIR
``We are drowning,'' said Judge Dana Leigh Marks of San
Francisco, president of the National Association of
Immigration Judges. ``The volume is just overwhelming and
because of the responsibility that the judges have—you have
people's lives in your hands—you have this tremendous pressure
to do the right thing, with the same pressure to work as quickly
as possible. And it becomes extremely grueling.''