Currently, the U.S. immigration system is experiencing an enormous backlog. Nearly 1.6 million cases are pending that the system cannot yet process. That means that immigrants who want to live or work in the United States are facing delays or even timing out of their eligibility for the visas they need.

According to new data from Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, which studies the issue, the backlog is only getting worse. As many as 140,000 new cases have entered the backlog since October.

A solution has been proposed in the House Judiciary Committee. The solution has the support of immigration judges and the leaders of national bar associations. The idea is that the immigration courts should be freed from political pressures. The only way to do that is to make immigration courts full courts instead of merely administrative courts that answer to the Department of Justice.

Presidential priorities affect the immigration courts

According to a former immigration judge who is now the president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, part of the backlog stems from changes in priorities that come with the election of each new U.S. president. Those changes in priorities mean reshuffling which cases to focus on, for example.

“That ping-pong between one administration’s priorities and another’s, reducing judicial effectiveness,” she explains. “Our inability to complete cases is a function of those shifting priorities.”

In addition, some people believe that the immigration courts must be insulated from political pressure, which they are currently experiencing. This is crucial so that people will perceive the courts as fair and impartial.

Under the new proposal, the immigration courts would become full federal courts. Judges would be appointed by the president to 15-year terms. This would allow them to build up knowledge of immigration law and case precedents. They could not be fired except for clear misconduct, just like other federal judges.

Today, the U.S. immigration courts answer directly to the attorney general. If the attorney general doesn’t agree with an immigration court ruling, he or she can simply overturn it.

What do you think Congress should do to speed up the immigration process and get rid of the backlog?

If you are seeking a U.S. visa, contact Yew Immigration Law Group. We have years of experience helping people come to live and work in the United States.