Burgeoning court backlog of more than 850,000 cases undercuts Trump immigration agenda

Wednesday, May 1, 2019
By Paul Martin

By Nick Miroff and Maria Sacchetti
May 1

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 U.S. immigration court system is facing a backlog of 850,000 cases, and it has fewer than 450 judges nationwide 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 United States for years while they wait.

Trump’s critics blame his administration’s overzealous enforcement approach for making the problem worse by arresting more people who can’t be quickly deported. But the delays have become a migration magnet as powerful as the U.S. economy or the desire to reunite with relatives living in the United States, administration officials say.

Since Trump took office, the backlog has swelled by more than 200,000 cases. The president has grown so frustrated that he has been floating the idea of doing away entirely 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 anchor Maria Bartiromo this week. “We have a court system that is — has 900,000 cases behind it. In other words, they have a court which needs to hear 900,000 cases. How ridiculous is this?”

He added, “What we need is new laws that don’t allow this, so when somebody comes in we say: ‘Sorry, you got to go out.’ ”

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