A drunk-driving charge sent a man who was in the U.S. illegally into the labyrinth of Chicago Immigration Court, where he joined thousands of others trying to navigate a system that has newfound momentum to remove them from the country, the Chicago Tribune reports. Scores of people here illegally are being processed through a court network that has become heavily backlogged as it reckons with the new priorities of the President Trump, who rode a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment to the White House. As recently as 2010, the immigration court in Chicago had fewer than 13,000 pending cases. By the end of March, that figure had risen to 24,844, says the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review.
The crunch is partly the result of Obama administration policy changes to handle cases that involved children and recent border crossers quickly in the face of an influx of immigrants coming into the U.S. illegally from Central America around 2014. The Trump administration has contributed to the crunch, emphasizing the deportation of detainees who have had contact with the criminal justice system, though even those without records have been caught up in the efforts. Last week, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency reported that in the first 100 days since Trump signed executive orders on immigration policy, arrests nationally have increased more than 37 percent over last year. Since Trump took office, the number of people detained in the Chicago area has more than doubled compared with the same period in 2016, from 412 to 940 people. The number without criminal records rose from 271 to 407 over the same period.