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GAO: It Takes More Than Two Years to Hire an Immigration Judge, Backlogged Cases Have More Than Doubled Since 2006

A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report examining immigration case backlogs and “long-standing management and operational challenges” has found that the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) faces substantial difficulties in keeping up with a caseload that only continues to grow.

According to the report, backlogged cases, or “cases pending from previous years that remain open at the start of a new fiscal year,” have “more than doubled from fiscal years 2006 through 2015 primarily due to declining cases completed per year.”

Moreover, the report found “that it took an average of 742 days to hire new judges from 2011 through August 2016.”

In addition to being already short-staffed and facing the aforementioned roadblocks in hiring new judges, organizational challenges are further complicated by the fact that 39 percent of current EOIR immigration judges are eligible for retirement.

“…as a result of the case backlog some immigration courts were scheduling hearings several years in the future, according to EOIR documentation…As of February 2, 2017, one court had individual hearings scheduled out no further than March 2017 while another court had scheduled individual hearings 5 years into the future—February 2022.”

When approached by GAO to discuss the root of the challenges, those involved in the process – including judges, court administrators, and DHS attorneys – cited a lack of court personnel and insufficient funding. The same respondents also noted the sudden rise in cases involving unaccompanied minors beginning in 2014 -- cases that, on average, are more complex and time-consuming.

In light of the report’s findings, GAO’s recommendations include suggestions to improve EOIR’s workforce planning, hiring practices, and data tracking and analysis. EOIR expressed its agreement with most of GAO’s findings, many of which it said it is already working to remedy, but did not specify which recommendations it supported or opposed.


Posted in General News




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