Shutdown hurt 37,000 immigrant cases

Immigration court system now running as usual
Associated Press
Feb 22, 2014


The federal government shutdown last year delayed more than 37,000 immigration hearings by months or years for immigrants already waiting in lengthy lines to plead for asylum or green cards.

While the country's immigration courts are now running as usual, immigrants who had hoped to have their cases resolved in October so they could travel abroad to see family or get a job have instead had their lives put on hold. Many had already waited years to get a hearing date in the notoriously backlogged courts, which determine whether immigrants should be deported or allowed to stay in the country.

Now, some hearings have been pushed into later this year, and thousands more have been shelved until 2015 or later, according to emails obtained by The Associated Press.

"This is a big task, and not one that will be accomplished quickly, especially given our current staffing shortage," Chief Immigration Judge Brian O'Leary wrote in an Oct. 17 email to immigration judges and court administrators obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. A day earlier, O'Leary wrote in a separate email to staff that the tally of deferred hearings had surpassed 37,000 and many immigrants probably wouldn't get their cases heard until at least 2015.

The delays triggered by last year's federal government shutdown that closed national parks and furloughed government workers has further strained an immigration court system already beset with ballooning caseloads, yearslong waits and a shortage of judges. The impact on immigrants has been uneven. Those with strong cases for staying in the U.S. are left in limbo for even longer, while those who face likely deportation have won more time in the United States.

"For some people, it probably was a huge reprieve," said Andres Benach, an immigration attorney in Washington. "Just not my clients."

About 70 percent of all immigration court hearings were put on hold, and all involved immigrants who were not held in detention centers. The rest — immigrants in detention facilities — proceeded with their hearings as scheduled. About half of immigrants in detention have criminal records.

The situation is especially dire for asylum seekers who may have left family behind in dangerous conditions. They cannot apply to bring relatives to the United States unless they win their cases.

For others, the delay means more uncertainty. Gladys Hirayda Shahian said she has been trying to obtain a green card through her American husband for more than a decade. After getting turned away at the airport after a trip back to her native Guatemala in the 1990s, Shahian said she crossed the border illegally to reunite with him and filed her residency application.

Since then, the 42-year-old from Encino, Calif., has been unable to take her U.S.-born children to visit family in Guatemala or accept a job outside her home. After waiting nearly two years to get an immigration court date in Los Angeles in October, she now has to wait until August because of the shutdown.

"Every time I go to that court, I come out broken, in tears," said Shahian, who has been married for two decades and helps run her husband's clothing design business.

Immigration judges can grant asylum, green cards or other forms of relief — or order someone deported for breaking the country's immigration laws. About half of immigrants were given deportation orders in immigration court rulings handed down since October, according to a report by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.

The courts overseen by the Justice Department's Executive Office for Immigration Review nearly always have long wait times for hearings. As of January, more than 360,000 immigration court cases were pending for an average of 573 days, according to TRAC.

Oscar, who came to the country as a 17-year-old last year from El Salvador, has been waiting for a decision on whether he can continue to live with his sister in Los Angeles - or be sent back and face street gangs that killed his mother and threatened to kill him if he didn't join their ranks. His lawyer requested that his last name not be used out of fear for his safety if he is deported.

Oscar is seeking legal status through a program that helps foreign children in the United States who have been abused or abandoned. A hearing on his case was supposed to happen in October, but now has been delayed until June or later, leaving him to worry about his future.

"I'm afraid they're going to send me back," he said.

Immigration Judge Dana Leigh Marks said she doesn't have two weeks open on her calendar in San Francisco's immigration court for merit hearings until June 2017. And she can't just bump people with court dates this year, because they've also been waiting for their day in court.

"You have this very delicately balanced system. Now we have this added dysfunction to cope with on top of that," she said. "I just think the ripple effect is going to be continuing for a while."

Some immigration lawyers said the shutdown caused heartache for many clients, but is par for the course in an overburdened system. Similar problems occur when a judge is sick or winter weather closes a courthouse.

"The backlog will keep on coming, whether it was shut down or not," said Andrew Johnson, an immigration attorney in New York. "You just got bad luck if you were one of the ones who were hit during that time."


Simple Enough II

Welcome to bureaucracy ..........welcome to life, think it was any easier in your original country of origin?


They're still getting health care and food on our dime, what's the difference I guess?


Baby on: It will continue that way, until we grant them amnesty. Until then, they pay no taxes into the system and continue to fly under the radar. Essentially, the conservatives are advocating that they be allowed to scam the system indefinitely.


Go back to wherever you came from, we're full. No Vacancy!


Why not set a good example, and self-deport yourself? Unless you're of American Indian heritage, you are the ancestor of immigrants, as well.


I wish this dept would shut down forever

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

I understand what this article is attempting to convey, but the government shutdown somehow being the only thing that could possibly backlog the efficiency of our Federal government is a bit absurd as is its extrapolation of delays. Unexpected things happen often such as snowstorms or natural disasters. Heck our government shuts down two days out of the week every week further delaying thousands of cases along the same, "skewed" lines. Even when it is open, why don't we just have the courts operating 24/7/365 if we are to cater to the point made here?

Heck, if we use the hours of Sandusky's Municipal Court the wheels of justice cease at 4:00 p.m. and don't open again until 8:00 a.m. the next day. Presuming they don't even take a lunch break, we lose (16x5)+48=X hours of justice a week. Over the course of a year (52X) we lose a total of 6656 hours of possible case resolution (not even including other man-made delays known as holidays). Think how any cases we can get through more quickly if only our courts were 24/7/365!

I certainly have a soft spot in my heart for those who want to follow the law at all let alone with immigration. But that said it wasn't just these people to be affected. The article wants to make the case, but it's hard to be a beautiful, unique snowflake of beautiful uniqueness when everyone else is, too.


Well boo hoo. There were service men KILLED IN ACTION that had their benefits delayed because of the shutdown. Their loved ones were left to figure out how to deal with burying a loved one. Everyone had to deal with it.


WE need to kick ALL these people out and pronto. No more welcome here ..Inn is full. Close all borders NOW. Revoke the anchor baby status. We also need to take assistance from the people who are abusing and milking the system (for years) and let them go on their own. So that the people who really need help and have paid into it, gets it, instead of sc, rewed out of it.



Sorry, I care about CITIZENS first. How can a government that does not even represent them hurt them if they aren't here legally? They have no standing in this society because they are citizens of a different country.


I care less if ANY of these mex take there last breath...we got way to many problem all ready in this country to have to deal with this s**t. And our government gives how many Billions to other country's and I can't even pay my rent here, find work, buy food. This country SUCKS!!!!!!!


The comments above are a good sampling of the GOP mindset, and why Latinos voted overwhelmingly Democrat in 2012. If I wanted to assure that my candidate did not win in 2016, I would adopt the same strategy as the Republicans.

The Big Dog's back

The strategy the Repubs are adopting is to render the White House powerless because they know there won't be a Repub there for a long, long time. They also are going for voter suppression to keep the poor from voting.


Only voter suppression I saw was from the left, remember the black panthers who intimidated folks with billy clubs and such? The same ones AG holder wouldnt do anything about? God you libs never seem to see the obvious but cradle the absurd.

The Big Dog's back
Darwin's choice

Yep, you need all those illegal votes to keep your party the favorite, more spinning from the azzclown troll.


I'm NOT GOP or Dem, or any other affiliation.. I'm a pissed off and fed up AMERICAN!

Now what?

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

It's frustrating, I understand starry. I'm tired of it to. To regressive cultural mindsets like this you are either a part of the Democrat Master Race or you are the enemy who rejects science, is uneducated, probably illiterate, and are generally irrelevant to society. No independent thought, research, or opinion allowed. Unfortunately coasterfan and Big Dog (among some others) don't seem to understand how offensive their stereotypes are and neither do they care.

To be fair there are some Republican and/or conservative commentators here that make just as facepalm-worthy posts and non-constructive broad-brush statements.

EDIT: Would be interesting to make a chart of the usual posters that plot their points along the two axis of "generally liberal/conservative" and "informed/uninformed". A truer representation would separate economics (a Z-axis) from social factors when compared with peoples' statements and support. I have fun in my mind plotting these points or making mental caricatures of entities here regardless of their position on the "map". Myself included.

The Big Dog's back

"you are either a part of the Democrat Master Race or you are the enemy who rejects science, is uneducated, probably illiterate, and are generally irrelevant to society. No independent thought, research, or opinion allowed."
So you do know the difference between the 2. And it's not that no independent thought, research or opinion are not allowed, just don't pass them off as facts.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

I pass facts off as facts yet the same bouncer greets me at the door because I don't carry the party card.

Myself and others here are probably a lot more open-minded than you think, but when all is rendered unto one party (especially the cherry-pickings) it gets a bit lame. I would think by now you have seen at least myself call out Republican "leadership" and even disagree with other conservatives here.

I think a good comparison would be for people who like NASCAR because they enjoy the literal mechanics, science, and physics of it but can't stand some of the fans who get into arguments over their favorite driver.

The Big Dog's back

What Repub "leadership" have you called out and why did you supposedly call them out?

JudgeMeNot's picture

your a troll. go back to the hole you came from.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

How about John Boehner for one as he is a feckless wishy-wash who despite his position as Speaker can't seem to actually explain things? Or how about Eric Cantor for two as his office produces more interns-turned-lobbyists than any other? How about our last President for the mess everything became despite good intentions, a pattern of behavior it would be nice to break with this administration? How about in just another story the state representative candidate who is still pursuing a candidacy by means that are perhaps legal but show how parties harm and overshadow other priorities? That's four. Hmmm I won't count the "Bushism" I shared with coasterfan so how about in a story a while ago I think it was to Pter I made the joke "You know your party's in trouble when someone says, 'Hey did you hear about that one rape guy?' and the response is 'Which one?'" (referring to the two candidates from last election). There are also the points where I tell you I don't watch Fox News and there are some major things I disagree with regarding Rush Limbaugh's points of view.

Whether or not he is Republican you also lambasted ME for coming to your side under the ceaseless and withering namecalling by Darwin's Choice? There are many points that I disagree with when thinkagain posts about social issues intersecting religion, yet we both could presumably be called conservative. I even snipped a long time ago that Contango was really getting feisty in his comments. Mind you all but having an open "profile" here!

Even here in this thread do you think I agree with BabyMomma's original post, huronguy's, or even starry's? My reply to her was reflecting the sentiment that those of Independent mindsets are seen as peons by those who vocally hold the Democrat Party near and dear. It had nothing to do with her "Inn is full" comments.

I hope you see this now that I've pointed it out. I've been corrected before, especially by Nemesis (that certainly seems to fall on the conservative side of the coin) who I respect because of that and how he frames his points. I have agreed with you, coasterfan, and (more often) deertracker on things. If you go back in my comments I at least refer to "Obamacare" as the ACA and actively attempt to always use a capital P "President" despite my disagreement with most of what he does.

Shall I go on about Republicans? How about that Republican Senate candidate who doesn't even live in his own state or own property/license there? Or how sick and tired I am of them meddling in social issues with the same sense of superiority I loathe from some Democrats?

Besides waving a flag with a donkey emblazoned on it I don't know what else you want or expect from me in order to be remotely taken seriously. I provide examples, comparisons, links, and even attempts at humor (which I try hard to make obvious through parenthetical phrases) to convey my points. I felt bad after being so harshly satirical with Licorice a while ago so I mellowed out. I'd like to think that my spelling and grammar are almost always spot-on (nobody's perfect) so that I am approaching conversations with you and others with a modicum of effort and respect.

So there you have it, a much more spelled-out version of my frustrations at trying to approach conversations with party-first die-hards. All this despite me having won a scholarship from the Democratic Women of Erie County and even visiting the President's reelection office twice (both civil and where I received compliments) while Romney's zero. I have met with Mr. Redfern once years ago and a rep for Rep. Kaptur once. I would even be interested in learning more about Mr. Hoffman despite my major disagreements with some of his thoughts. Yet it still isn't enough?

Emailing the heads of both major political parties in Erie County TWICE have yielded nothing, not even a canned response. So what am I to do? Mr. Westerhold had enough faith in me to give me a blog I use to try and help, inform, and humor them. He and I presumably have different interests/opinions yet here I am which is an offer he can revoke at any time but hasn't. I take that seriously.

So yeah, vent over (or in honor of Pter, blathering) but I sincerely hope you understand my aggravation with all this.

The Big Dog's back

You know, I read all this, and #1, I don't expect you to call out fellow conservatives. As I've said before, your posts are 100% conservative, with 90% of that being right wing views. I've tried to convey to you opinion pieces are not facts. You could probably cut your posts in half if you would leave out the right wing blather. By the way, I don't expect you to think like me. Just leave out the right wing talking points. Believe it or not, people from both sides use to be able to compromise.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Why wouldn't I call them out if I disagree or they are actually hurting more than helping? You help out more by pointing out what needs pointed out than letting it slide. I think that is why the two parties are so constipated with inward-facing mirror-talkers, making the ability to communicate as distant as you imply it is.

I post here in order TO bridge communication and thought. You may think that what I post is a rehash of a right-wing newsletter and that I have no thoughts of my own, but I will continually prove that to not be the norm as I build my cases. Could I cut my posts in half? Yes. But then that means I just need to presume you will trust everything I put out there without getting you or other readers to actually THINK about it. I actually wish you would "blather" MORE so that you actually build your cases here for people to read.

I'm tired of it and many others are. Yet those who are willing to bridge the divide are repelled away as being beholden agents of one thing or another. If you want to test my ability to communicate from my "side" to yours, invite me as your +1 to the next Democratic party function. You can even introduce me as your special nutcase and throw me to lions, if that is how you may see it.

Be my in, what do you have to lose? You'll be treated to a show either way.

Steve P

Really wish coaster & piddle's parents would have been pro choice and followed that agenda.