Have you ever wondered “Why does it take so long for immigration cases to be processed?” You wouldn’t be the first or the last to ask for an explanation. In a recent public event, the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) as well as the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Asylum Division recognized the need for continued efforts to resolve the issue of backlogged cases. Both offices acknowledged key areas of focus to help resolve this issue.
Funding is a major issue that more people need to be made aware of. While Congress has quadrupled aid on the enforcement efforts, the courts have seen less than 75% increases. This has led to more cases needing resolution with not enough financially to grow the court system. Many people may not even be aware that the Asylum Division receives no funding from Congress and solely relies on fees USCIS collects from applicants. This unbalanced funding has a key impact on how efficient our courts can process cases.
In conjunction with funding, staffing goes right along with it. In 2016, seventeen immigration judges have been hired and an additional 58 officers will be moved to refugee resettlement work. While this is a step in the right direction, EOIR acknowledges that retaining judges has been difficult. With massive workloads and many judges at the age of retirement, they are concerned that the hiring impact will not be felt as much as they had hoped. The asylum division has the capacity to hire 533 officers and as of March 2016, 86 of these positions were still open. EOIR and USCIS are aware that filling these positions is crucial and takes top priority.
While these are just two of many factors that lead to long processing times, it is important to know that changes are being made. As the need for quicker response time keeps making it to the top of the priority list, pilot programs are being tested to allow for fair and consistent ways for cases to be dealt with. While we might not see dramatic changes right away, these are steps in the right direction.