Backlogged: More Judges a Partial Fix

By Jon Feere and Jon Feere on June 18, 2009

A new report from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) highlights the problem of our nation’s growing backlog of immigration cases but fails to address one obvious, and frequently overlooked solution: less immigration.

The report explains that due to more immigration matters being brought before the immigration courts over the past decade, the backlog has increased by 64 percent, the wait for a resolution has increased 32 percent, and in 2008, the court received a total of 351,477 matters, the highest volume recorded over the last decade.

The report also suggests that because the demand has gotten so large, immigration judges are devoting less and less time to each matter they hear.

Obviously, if our administrative immigration courts are going to take a case, they should provide a fair hearing. And as the report notes, more immigration judges could certainly be somewhat helpful in reducing the backlog.

But there are multiple ways of improving the system, and most media and activist groups have only looked at the supply side of the equation, concluding that hiring more judges is the only solution.

There are ways to reduce demand as well.

For starters, we can reduce legal immigration. If our system cannot accommodate the numbers, shouldn’t we create a more reasonable, slower-growth immigration policy? In addition to taking some pressure off the courts and providing a better legal system for immigrants, less immigration would be helpful in encouraging assimilation, for example.

We can also reduce illegal immigration by eliminating incentives to come here illegally. This would require support for policies like E-Verify, ending sanctuary cities, and cutting off unnecessary benefits to illegal aliens.

The White House could also fully execute Expedited Removal, a law that allows immigration officers to quickly remove any inadmissible alien who is without a valid claim of asylum. It results in a final order of removal and prohibits the alien from reentering the United States for a period of five years. Most significantly, it circumvents any judicial involvement. As written into law, the policy applies to any illegal alien apprehended anywhere in the United States, provided the alien has not been continuously physically present in the country for longer than two years. For whatever reason, both the Clinton and G.W. Bush Administrations have actually chosen to limit their authority; the Clinton White House implemented expedited removal only at a few ports of entry while the Bush White House has decided not to use the removal process for Mexican or Canadian aliens. While there was some expansion of the program after 9/11, it was minimal; the process is now being used at more ports of entry, but only on non-Mexican, non-Canadian aliens apprehended within 100 miles of the borders, and only if the alien is apprehended within 14 days of entry.

With the seemingly endless appeals advanced by immigration attorneys, an increased willingness of Judicial Branch courts to get involved in immigration matters, and open-border groups’ opposition to enforcement of immigration law, the backlog is to be expected. It is not difficult to conclude that “immigrants rights” groups are at least partially responsible for the legal delays immigrants are experiencing.

If you enjoyed this blog, check out No “illegal aliens” in Arizona? and "I Absolutely and Entirely Renounce...".