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Some Asylum Seekers Must Wait A Decade For Court Date

U.S. immigration offices are so overwhelmed with processing migrants for court that some some asylum-seekers who crossed the border at Mexico may be waiting a decade before they even get a date to see a judge. The backlog stems from a change made two months after President Biden took office, when Border Patrol agents began now-defunct practice of quickly releasing immigrants on parole. They were given instructions to report to a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office at their final destination to be processed for court, work previously done by the Border Patrol. The change prevented the kind of massive overcrowding of holding cells in 2019, when some migrants stood on toilets for room to breathe. The cost became evident as ICE officers tasked with issuing court papers couldn’t keep pace, reports the Associated Press. Offices in some cities are telling migrants to come back years from now, and the extra work has strained ICE’s capacity for its traditional work of enforcing immigration laws in the U.S. interior.

“We’re being stretched to the limit,” said Jamison Matuszewski, director of enforcement and removal operations in San Diego. As for migrants, waits to get a court date vary. In New York, ICE told asylum-seekers this month to return in March 2033, said U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Tex.) In nine other cities — San Antonio; Miramar and Jacksonville, Fla.; Los Angeles; Milwaukee; Chicago; Washington; Denver; and Mount Laurel, N.J. — the wait is until March 2027. Until then, the migrants won’t even get an initial court appearance on the books, though they can live and work in the U.S. After that, their case will work its way through the U.S. immigrant courts — a process that takes about four years amid a backlog that reached 2.1 million cases in January, up from about 600,000 in 2017. “The asylum system is in dire need of reform from top to bottom,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said when asked about the waits for a court notice.


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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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