Backlogged U.S. immigration courts are bracing for a deluge of tens of thousands of Central American children arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, says the Associated Press. The court system is so overwhelmed that it can currently take three years to get a hearing, and many believe the delays will only get worse. For many immigrants, the delays in the court system work in their favor because they know they have so long before their cases are resolved. “This situation just happens to be a magnitude unlike anything we have ever seen,” said Lauren Alder Reid, counsel for legislative and public affairs at the U.S. Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review, which runs the courts.
U.S. immigration courts have long been troubled. The courts have more than 375,000 cases being handled by just 243 judges. Immigration lawyers said judges are already setting hearings for 2017. The Obama administration has said it will move quickly to process thousands of immigrant children and families arriving on the Texas border fleeing violence and extortion from gangs in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Since October, 57,000 unaccompanied children have reached the U.S., prompting the government to set up temporary shelters and fly immigrants to other states to be processed.