Tens of Thousands of Immigration Court Hearings Canceled Due to Shutdown; Trump Announces Three-Week Reopening of Federal Government

According to a report by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), more than 80,000 immigration court hearings were canceled due to the partial federal government shutdown, which began at midnight on December 22, 2018, and ended on January 25. President Donald Trump has announced a reopening of the government for three weeks, until February 15.

The report notes that the active case backlog was already at 809,041 as of the end of November 2018. Judge Dana Leigh Marks termed the shutdown’s effect “devastating” and estimated that it could add three or four years to the wait before those canceled hearings can be rescheduled. According to TRAC figures as of January 11, immigration courts in California experienced the most hearing cancellations: an estimated 9,424. New York had the second highest number of cancellations, at 5,320. Texas was close behind New York with an estimated 5,141 immigration court proceedings canceled.

The fee-based U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services remained open during the shutdown. Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) program services remained operational during the shutdown, and SAVE said users should continue to submit cases to verify an applicant’s immigration or citizenship status. The Department of State said that scheduled passport and visa services in the United States and at U.S. embassies and consulates overseas continued during the shutdown “as the situation permit[ted].” E-Verify announced, “E-Verify has resumed operations. Given that E-Verify was unavailable for over a month, we ask for your patience as we reinstate the service.”

The TRAC report is at https://trac.syr.edu/immigration/reports/543/. Information about the growing backlog is at https://trac.syr.edu/immigration/reports/542/.

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