Immigrants Feel Pain as Government Shutdown Creates Delays, Backlogs

Written by: Ashik Jahan, Esq.

Thousands of immigrants and their families face uncertainty and lengthy delays in hearings before immigration judges as the longest U.S. government shutdown in history causes massive backlogs in immigration courts across the country.

Three-quarters of the immigration judges who work for the U.S. Department of Justice are on unpaid leave because of the shutdown, compounding strain on a court system that already has a backlog of more than 1 million cases of deportation and asylum petitions.

In Georgia alone, there are more than 26,000 immigration cases pending, according to data by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University cited by the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

The disruption poses a special challenge to cases that may have already taken years to finally get a hearing scheduled, only to have the shutdown create uncertainty as to when those cases will be put back on the docket when the government reopens.

“This is an unprecedented situation for immigrants, many of whom have waited for years to have their day in court and now find themselves stuck in a no-man’s land of docket scheduling uncertainty,” said Ashik R. Jahan, a partner at Hall Booth Smith in Atlanta who specializes in business and family immigration matters including visas, permanent residency, citizenship and other employment matters.