The Justice Department has a date reserved for thousands of immigrants awaiting a day in court: the day after Thanksgiving 2019. The Wall Street Journal says officials are sending out notices that many immigrants will have their cases pushed back nearly five years, a fresh sign of the pervasive backlogs and delays in the U.S. immigration court system. The delay makes room for higher-priority cases caused by a surge in unaccompanied minors and families crossing the border with Mexico.
The number of people affected could reach tens of thousands. Those bumped back in the system are nonpriority cases, which means most are living freely and not being held in detention. Greg Chen of the American Immigration Lawyers Association said, “This backlog has existed for years, and Congress just doesn't make it a priority.” There are 230 immigration judges handling more than 375,000 cases. The average time to resolve a case is nearly 600 days.