Funding in works for 100 new immigration judges

Funding pending approval of Congress in 2020 budget

SAN ANTONIO – An additional 100 immigration judges are in the works to help 424 judges already facing a staggering backlog of more than 892,000 cases, according to Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a nonpartisan resource for federal enforcement, staffing and spending.

U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, a Republican in District 23, said that he and U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Democrat in District 20, have asked for the funding in the 2020 budget to also include teams of attorneys, legal assistants, interpreters and other support staff for the judges.

"We funded additional judges. Now it's up to the Department of Justice to identify these judges and hire them," Hurd said.

The funding is pending approval of the 2020 budget by Congress, a Department of Justice spokesman said.

"The amount of immigration judges relative to the increase in incoming cases has caused extensive periods (of delay)," Cuellar said in a news release. "That is not how our immigration judicial system should run."

Cuellar said the average wait time has been about two years. In many cases, it can take up to six years or longer, said Sara Ramey, an immigration attorney and executive director of the Migrant Center for Human Rights. 

Ramey said 100 more judges would help significantly. However, she said, "I don't think it's going to completely remedy the issue."

She said at least 500 more judges more are needed, given the new arrivals at the border that number in the thousands.

Ramey said the government quota for judges to close out 700 cases a year only adds to the stress of hearing often tragic stories by those asking for asylum.

She said what would be helpful is “taking away the pressure that they feel to move through cases quickly.”

About the Authors:

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.

Misael started at KSAT-TV as a photojournalist in 1987.