Texas seeks more judges for burgeoning immigration backlog

The number of Texas-based immigration cases stuck in federal court has grown by about 60% in the last two years; through April of this year, some 77,000 immigration cases were still waiting to be heard. To combat the growing problem, Rep. Henry Cuellar wants to secure money for 55 more immigration judges and support staff:

“We got the [funding request] out of committee, we have it out of the House and now it’s over on the Senate side,” U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, said. “People always talk about more Border Patrol and more Border Patrol. But as you get more Border Patrol, you get a lot more cases. We’re about 450,000 cases backlogged.”

More immigration judges are already being hired throughout the country under a 2014 directive from the White House. There are currently 31 immigration judges in Texas.

In Texas, the Houston immigration court has the largest backlog, with 32,048 cases pending. That’s followed by San Antonio at 24,570, Dallas at 7,700 and El Paso at 6,515. Harlingen rounds out the top five at 5,800.

Cuellar said the expedited removal of deportable immigrants was the result of a June 2014 White House directive to process high-priority cases quickly, including recent crossers and unaccompanied children.

The hiring surge should also affect the number of cases that involve unaccompanied minors. That part of the docket has swelled to about 70,000 nationwide, according to the TRAC data. That’s compared with about 41,600 in June 2014. Kathryn Mattingly, a spokesperson for theExecutive Office for Immigration Review, said that as of May 26, the number of pending cases for unaccompanied minors had dropped to about 22,000.

The majority of illegals waiting for case outcomes are Mexican nationals.