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Immigration backlog likely to increase during shutdown

A report issued on Jan. 14 said that over 40,000 immigration cases were canceled because of the government shutdown. This estimate is based on the number of hearings that had been scheduled in Florida immigration courts and others throughout the country. The figure was difficult to verify because both judges and employees of the Executive Office for Immigration Review had been furloughed because of the shutdown.

Before the government shutdown, there were roughly 800,000 immigration cases that were awaiting a resolution. It is believed that the shutdown is only to cause that number to increase. If an immigrant has to reschedule his or her hearing, it could mean spending months or years waiting for a decision about their status in the United States. It is believed that any cases that have been postponed by the shutdown will not be rescheduled for at least two or three years.

This was the timeline for new cases that were added to the docket before the government partially closed. Cases for those who are currently in detention have not been called off and are not included in any cancellation figures. Some have noted that the current shutdown runs counter to Trump's goal to add more immigration judges and reduce the backlog in the immigration court system.

Individuals who are seeking asylum in the United States may benefit from seeking the advice of an attorney. This is because an attorney could gather evidence showing that an immigrant has a credible fear of being harmed at home. Legal counsel may also help an immigrant with paperwork or other steps in the asylum process, such as an interview with a customs officer.

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