The effects of last year’s government shutdown are just now being felt with over 37,000 immigration hearings delayed. Immigrants who have been waiting for years have had their cases pushed back-even those waiting on asylum cases or green cards.
The immigration courts are back to running as usual now, but immigrants who had hoped to have their cases heard by a specific time to be able to travel or get a job will have to put their plans on hold. The courts have had a bad reputation for being so backlogged with judges and lawyers overbooked and constant delays. The temporary shutdown only further postponed important cases on rulings over whether or not someone would be deported or could stay in the country.
The Chief Immigration Judge Brian O’Leary commented on the court situation writing, “This is a big task, and not one that will be accomplished quickly, especially given our current staffing shortage.” He also said that the total amount of deferred hearing has currently surpassed 37,000 and some of them probably won’t be heard until 2015 at the earliest.
This situation is not good for any immigrants but is especially troubling for asylum seekers who have families living in dangerous situations in their countries. The system makes it difficult to apply for their relatives because they cannot do so without having their case heard by an immigration judge and win.
In the case of 42-year-old Gladys Hirayda Shahian, who has been trying to get her green card through her American husband for over 10 years now, her court date has been moved back yet again. She is unable to see her family in Guatemala, travel with her U.S. born children to see them nor find a job outside of the house.
Immigration judges are the only ones who have the authority to grant asylum, green cards and other forms of relief. Judge Dana Leigh Marks says “You have this very delicately balanced system. Now we have this added dysfunction to cope with on top of that. I just think the ripple effect is going to be continuing for a while.”
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