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Report: Still not enough judges working immigration court

(Source: WAFB)
Updated: Sep. 20, 2018 at 7:06 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Immigration courts across the United States still don't have enough judges, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.

The audit highlights hiring practices by the Executive Office of Immigration Review and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Alternatives to Detention program.

At the start of the 2018, EOIR managed to add some judges to the bench but it still wasn't as many as federal dollars are assigned to employ, according to the report.

It states the office was provided enough money to pay 374 judges at the start of federal fiscal year 2016. At the end of that fiscal year, there were only 289 immigration judges nationwide.

The GAO recommends increasing efficiency in the hiring process. It found from February 2014 to August 2016, the average time it took to hire a judge was 647 days.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions in April 11, 2017 at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection station in Nogales, Arizona announced plans to boost border security that included hiring more immigration judges. The goal at that time was 50 more in 2018 and 75 additional judges in 2019.

The GAO report found EOIR was up to 351 immigration judges as of September 2018, which is still below the authorized level of 384. The Executive Office of Immigration Reform stated intentions of continued hiring in the next year.

These news judges have plenty of work already waiting for them. There are almost three-quarters of a million pending cases, according to Syracuse University's Transactional Access Records Clearinghouse. They aren't all new cases either.

The 2015 federal fiscal year began with a backlog of roughly 437,000 cases, according to the GAO report. The median wait time for a case to be complete was more than a year.

The EOIR has enlisted some of the recommendations for hiring efficiency from previous GAO reports, however, the latest one shows that there are still more improvements that could be made.

The caseload for immigration court in Arizona isn’t in the top ten states, according to TRAC. There are more cases in Phoenix than Eloy, which has more cases than even Tucson.

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