Federal immigration courts are so clogged that nearly 90,000 people accused of being in the U.S. illegally waited at least two years for a judge to decide whether they must leave, reports USA Today. The cases are emblematic of delays in the court system that lawyers, lawmakers, and others say is on the verge of being overwhelmed. Among them were 14,000 immigrants whose cases took more than five years to decide and a few that took more than a decade.
Some immigration courts are so backlogged that just putting a case on a judge’s calendar can take more than a year, says Dana Marks, an immigration judge in San Francisco and president of the National Association of Immigration Judges. In the most extreme cases, immigrants can remain locked up while their cases are delayed. Critics say the 224 judges of the immigration courts, run by the Justice Department, are unable to handle a flood of increasingly-complicated cases. Justice Department spokeswoman Susan Eastwood acknowledges some long delays, but says that’s often the result of unusual circumstances. She says the department has enough judges.