The clock is ticking to the planned end of Title 42 pandemic border restrictions – which is expected to add to an already growing backlog of cases before immigration courts.
The COVID-19-era health measure used to deport migrants crossing the border illegally is expected to expire May 23.
However, the backlog of cases has ballooned to over 1.7 million, according to Syracuse University TRAC.
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That backlog has seen some migrants waiting five years for a court hearing. The 1.7 million figure is not strictly border-related and includes migrants from more than 200 countries.
Retired immigration judge Denise Slavin sat on the bench for 24 years.
“My biggest fear with the ending of Title 42 is they’re going to do the same thing. They’re going to have judges stop doing the cases that are ready to be heard and finished and move them to these to the Title 42 cases that are new and so they won’t be ready. You’re just sort of spinning your wheels and wasting time,” Slavin told Fox News.
Immigration courts are not part of the independent judiciary, but rather the executive branch under the Justice Department. Slavin told Fox News her former colleagues have been overwhelmed and understaffed. Unlike other judges, immigration judges do not control their own dockets.
“It’s very frustrating because as a judge it puts pressure on you to be in court eight hours a day, five days a week. Maybe even longer,” Slavin said.
There are approximately 500 immigration judges nationwide.