The Justice Department said this week that it has taken serious steps to address the massive backlog of immigration cases before it, but that it will need congressional help in order to truly fix the problem.
In a news release sent out Thursday, the Executive Office of Immigration Review — the DOJ office in charge of America’s immigration courts — announced that it had completed more than 275,000 immigration cases during fiscal year 2019, which ended last month.
The release claimed that this figure is the second-highest in its history and “nearly double” the number of completed cases during President Obama’s last full fiscal year, 2016, which saw 143,509 completed cases, and is a roughly 80,000-case increase from FY 2018, according to DOJ numbers.
DOJ also said that EOIR had 442 immigration judges at the end of the fiscal year and that 92 new judges had been added during the year, with another class of judges expected to join in November.
The new judges are part of an overall strategy to address the current backlog of immigration cases with more manpower, expanded court capacity, and an emphasis on “the importance of timely completing cases consistent with the law,” the release added.
Analysis from Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, housed at Syracuse University, found that the backlog of federal immigration cases had reached more than 1 million at the end of August. The Justice Department said Thursday that the pending caseload at the end of September was around 987,000.
Despite all these efforts, EOIR said, the number of unresolved cases is going to keep climbing unless Congress steps up to address the crisis at America’s southern border.
“Our immigration courts are doing everything in their power to efficiently adjudicate immigration cases while respecting due process rights, but efficient adjudication alone cannot resolve the crisis at the border,” EOIR director James McHenry stated. “While EOIR is doing an unprecedented job adjudicating cases fairly and expeditiously, the nearly one million case backlog will continue to grow unless Congress acts to address the crisis at the border.”