‘Catch-up for years’ as backlogged immigration courts open

NEW YORK (AP) — The nation’s immigration courts were severely backlogged even before the government shutdown. Now it could take years just to deal with the delays caused by the five-week standoff, attorneys say.

With the shutdown finally over, the courts reopened Monday morning to immigrants seeking asylum or otherwise trying to stave off deportation, and hearings were held for the first time since late December. Court clerks scrambled to deal with boxes and boxes of legal filings that arrived after the doors opened.

Jennifer Williams, deputy attorney in charge of the immigration law unit at Legal Aid in New York City, says the courts are “going to be playing catch-up for years.”

An estimated 86,000 immigration court hearings were canceled, the biggest number in California, followed by Texas and New York. The courts are estimated to have more than 800,000 pending cases overall.

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