The nation’s immigration courts are choked by the largest backlog of pending deportation and asylum cases in history, says a Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse study reported by the Houston Chronicle. With a national backlog of 228,400 cases, the highest totals are in California, New York, Florida, and Texas. Part of the problem is the slow pace of judicial hiring, which pushed immigrants’ wait to an average of 439 days nationwide.
“Some of this is simply pushing more cattle through the chutes,” said Michael Olivas, a University of Houston Law Center professor. Houston attorney Fernando Alvares is representing a Honduran client whose case is not expected to be heard until March 2011. The courts handle immigration cases involving deportation, asylum requests, bond reduction and other legal issues affecting legal and illegal immigrants. Some 28,000 immigrants have been detained as a result of enforcement actions by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In California, immigrants are waiting an average of 619 days for their cases to be heard, the longest delay in the country, said TRAC.. Of 239 judicial positions in the nation’s 55 immigration courts, 48 remain vacant, contributing to a backlog that has ballooned by 23 percent in 18 months.