US Immigration System Remains at Risk Due to Prolonged Government Shutdown

Advocates for Immigration Struggle After 35 Days Without Government Supports

US immigration courts have seen a 10% increase in their backlog since the beginning of the U.S. government shutdown two months ago. The backlog, already in excess of 1 million cases, has only been worsened by the shutdown.

Every week the shutdown continued added a further 20,000 cancellations to the already sizeable backlog. In fact, in January alone over 9,000 court cases were thrown out just in the state of California.

Not only has the shutdown wreaked havoc on the courts due to the abrupt cancellation of numerous hearings, it has crippled the immigration system and its workers. New applications are piling up by the thousands, and cases are being put on hold or thrown out altogether. Asylum seekers are crossing the border and flooding US courts with arrests, while families are being torn apart, and immigration judges and clerks are being sent home because the government is unwilling to pay them.

Despite the President of the United States agreeing to temporarily reopen the government for three weeks, including immigration courts, there is still a severe strain on immigration government workers, immigration courts, and many US companies with active cases for potential foreign workers.

The private sector is not immune to this situation. To avoid serious repercussions from the administration, companies are following the law and trying to be patient waiting for things to return to normal. With a struggling immigration system and a hobbled hiring process for corporations, all employers can do is wait while their business takes a hit. Without these foreign workers aiding the labour force, the economy is at risk.

The shutdown effectively derailed an already complicated system with a lengthy process that could now take months to get back on track. This delay has resulted in a nightmare of issues for immigrants and refugees waiting for their applications to be processed.

This has also caused chaos among immigration and refugee lawyers across the country who are trying to advocate for people who are falling victim to an unreliable system. The worry is that once the shutdown is lifted, documents and correspondences will be lost in the shuffle resulting in more delays, more backlog, and more hardships for innocent people trying to start their new life in America.

Despite not having achieved any of the goals intended by the shutdown, President Donald Trump reluctantly reopened U.S. government. As the government slowly reopens and becomes somewhat functional after 35 days (making it the longest in U.S. history),  every day is a constant struggle to get back up to speed within a limited time frame.