Looming over the Trump administration’s struggle to curb illegal immigration is a challenge that no amount of razor wire, troops or steel fencing can fix, the Washington Post reports. The U.S. immigration court system has a backlog of 850,000 cases and fewer than 450 judges to handle them. New asylum applications and other claims are piling up, creating long delays that Central American families arriving in record numbers know will allow them to remain in the U.S. for years while they wait. Critics blame the administration’s overzealous enforcement approach for making the problem worse by arresting more people who can’t be quickly deported. The delays have become a migration magnet as powerful as the U.S. economy or the desire to reunite with relatives living in the U.S.
Since President Trump took office, the backlog has swelled by more than 200,000 cases. Trump has grown so frustrated that he has floated the idea of doing away with U.S. immigration courts, which are part of the Justice Department, not the judicial branch. “We don’t need a court system,” he told Fox Business Network this week. Citing the case backlog, he said, “What we need is new laws that don’t allow this, so when somebody comes in, we say: ‘Sorry, you got to go out.’ ” Trump has ordered a draft of new regulations to adjudicate asylum cases within 180 days. He wants to deter new asylum requests by imposing fees on applicants and limiting their ability to qualify for work permits while waiting for claims to be heard. Trump hopes faster scrutiny of asylum claims — and perhaps a higher bar for establishing “credible fear” of returning to their home countries — will turn more people away, especially those he thinks are gaming the system.