Shutdown Ballooned Backlog in Immigration Courts by 10%

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The partial federal government shutdown, a funding dispute centered on border security, left the nation’s overloaded immigration system digging out of an even deeper hole than before the five-week standoff, The Wall Street Journal reports. The court backlog, at more than 800,000 cases before the funding gap that started Dec. 21, swelled by at least 80,000 as courts stopped hearing most cases and Justice Department lawyers were furloughed, stalling litigation over immigrant-family separations and asylum claims by people crossing the border between official entry points. The shutdown also closed E-Verify, the voluntary online system employers use to verify workers’ immigration status. Supporters of tighter immigration see E-Verify as one of the government’s most important tools because it frustrates illegal immigrants’ attempts to work in the U.S.

“It’s chaos on top of disaster,” Paul Wickham Schmidt, a retired immigration judge and former chairman of the Board of Immigration Appeals, told the Journal. “It’s already a system bursting at the seams.…We have a shutdown over border security and immigration, but they shut the mechanism that issues final deportations. How does that make sense?” Before the shutdown, the administration tried to accelerate the courts’ docket by imposing case-completion quotas on its 400 judges. The president also proposed adding 75 judges as part of an ultimately unsuccessful deal to end the shutdown.

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