If you are an immigrant or an asylum seeker who is awaiting a court hearing on naturalization, you will be well familiar with the long delays you face in the backlogged courts of Texas. We are well aware of the acute problems in the Austin area because Texas has the largest backlog in the country, according to a recent study.
In March, Human Rights First released its detailed analysis that shed light on the growing backlog. The report illustrated how the whole integrity of the immigration and asylum systems is being called into question by the delays. The report says Texas has a backlog of 89,000 cases. The number of cases pending in the Houston court alone, a city where Peek & Toland has an office, increased from 6,423 to 36,136 in the six years from 2010 to 2016, according to the report.
Over the last few years, a surge in new arrivals from Central America has fueled the backlog. The underfunded immigration system has failed to respond to the growing numbers.
Eleanor Acer, Senior Director of Refugee Protection with Human Rights First said the growing backlog has left those who are seeking legal protection in “legal limbo for years.”
We echo the concerns of Human Rights First and believe Congress needs to take action now to address the problem. Human Rights First is urging members to fund 75 additional teams of immigration judges to speed up the hearings.
The report from Human Rights First states there are a mere six immigration judges on the bench in Houston, a court that faces a doubling of its caseload by 2019 unless more judges and staff are added. Immigration and asylum seekers in Texas face a wait of a staggering five years for their cases to be heard. That’s well above the national average which is three years. In Houston and Dallas, wait times have grown by 30 percent since 2014.
It’s a long time for your life to be put on hold. The ongoing stress and uncertainty of an immigration case places many strains on families and means those seeking naturalization or asylum are unable to plan their futures with any degree of certainty.
The disproportionate funding that has gone into the immigration system has exacerbated the problem. Over almost 15 years, Congress has boosted immigration enforcement budgets but has completely failed to adequately fund the court systems that handle the resulting cases. At the same time, the prioritization of cases concerning children and families from Central America has pushed up the wait times for those families that have not been prioritized.
The immigration laws are complex and confusing, and the long waits for court hearings add to the daily stresses. We highlight the need for reform here on our website.
If you are waiting for a court hearing for naturalization, you are not alone. Our experienced immigration attorneys represent clients in Austin, Houston and other cities such as Georgetown and San Marcos. Contact the experienced Texas immigration attorneys at Peek & Toland so as we can explain your options and help you to secure legal status in the U.S. Do not hesitate to call us at (512) 474-4445.