Government shutdown worsening immigration courts backlog, has little effect on USCIS

Government shutdown worsening immigration courts backlog, has little effect on USCIS

January 21, 2019 5:20 pm

Today is the 30th day of the partial government shutdown, and there appears to be no end in sight following the President’s weekend proposal to reopen the government and provide a three-year extension of DACA and TPS in exchange for $5.7 billion of funding for his border wall, a proposal that was swiftly rejected by Democratic Congressional leadership.

Some of the nation’s immigration system has been left relatively unscathed by the government shutdown, including the majority of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service’s functions.  USCIS announced “[t]he current lapse in annual appropriated funding for the U.S. government does not affect USCIS’s fee-funded activities,” which means the agency will continue to accept the vast majority of applications for benefits requests.  The E-Verify program, a “free internet-based system allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the U.S.,” and some other non-fee-funded activities of the agency will be unavailable during the shutdown.

The shutdown’s impact on the nation’s immigration courts, however, has been significant.  The Executive Office for Immigration Review announced that all “[n]on-detained docket cases will be reset for a later date after funding resumes.”  This is anticipated to seriously worsen the growing backlog facing the nation’s immigration court system.  Syracuse University researchers reported that that between the beginning of the government shutdown and January 11, the number of removal hearings that had been cancelled amounted to 42,726, which will have a large effect on the system’s backlog active cases, which numbered approximately 809,041 as of November 30, 2018.