Judge says immigration courts backlog is related to DOJ priorities.

Judge says immigration courts backlog is related to DOJ priorities.

Originally Published in The Hill.

By Julia Manchester

February 5, 2019

Immigration Judge Ashley Tabaddor on Tuesday said immigration courts are dealing with a crisis in backlogs, in part because of the Justice Department's role in pushing their department's priorities, which she said has resulted in docket shuffling. 

"The crisis in the courts is the fact that we are a court that's stationed in the Justice Department, run by the U.S. attorney general — who's a prosecutor," Tabaddor, who is the president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, told Hill.TV's Buck Sexton and Krystal Ball in an appearance on "Rising." 

"Having that fundamental flaw, which pre-existed what we're dealing with now, but it's just become more and more amplified," she continued. 

"So with every step, the backlog has been used as an excuse for implementing a lot of misguided programs that have added to the backlog," she said. 

"One of the problems that we see with the use of the court as an extension of a law enforcement agency's priorities is this constant docket shuffling," she said. "So it takes years and years, and a long time for cases on each judge's docket to get ready for trial." 

"Our judges have upwards of 4,000, 5,000 cases on their docket, so it takes several hearings before a case is ready for trial, but we're constantly told, 'hey, we want this set of cases to go first,' " she said. "So that adds to the backlog." 

Immigration has been a central focus of the Trump administration and has proven to be a divisive issue in the U.S. 

The problem of backlogged cases reportedly increased considerably during the partial government shutdown in December and January. 

ABC News reported last month that a number of immigration courts closed amid the shutdown, resulting in indefinite delays for cases. 

— Julia Manchester

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