This year’s groundswell of minors coming across the U.S.-Mexico border has begun to stabilize, says the Christian Science Monitor. Some 2,424 unaccompanied youths were apprehended in September, compared with more than 10,000 in June, says U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The summer surge is stretching an immigration court system that was already trying to cope with a huge backlog of deportation cases that often take years. As of August, there were 408,037 cases in the U.S. Justice Department’s immigration courts, up from 344,230 in 2013, says the nonpartisan Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.
Under a White House directive, courts are sending minors to the front of the line as they focus on the more recent arrivals. Hearings are scheduled for the youths in a relatively short time. But some of the same factors that result in lengthy, drawn-out cases for adults fighting deportation, including a shortage of judges, not enough pro-bono attorneys, case continuances, and transfers from one state to another, are slowing down proceedings for minors. With Congress unwilling to grant special funding to address the crush of underage immigrants, the Department of Justice has reallocated resources and courts have reassigned judges and adjusted juvenile dockets. Significant hurdles remain.