McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — To help reduce the backlog of 1.3 million pending immigration cases, the House Appropriations Committee has approved a funding bill for an additional 100 federal immigration judges.
The Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies funding bill must be approved by the full House and Senate.
If approved, the overall budget for the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) — which oversees the nation’s immigration courts — would be set at $891 million in fiscal year 2022. That is an increase of $157.2 million from this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. The increased funding would allow for the hiring of 100 new immigration judges as well as their staff, U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Democrat from South Texas who sits on the Committee said Wednesday.
The need for more immigration judges is evident based on the growing case backlog compared with completed cases.
There were 126,911 new immigration cases added so far in fiscal 2021, nearly double the 68,260 cases that the courts managed to complete during this same time period, Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), a nonprofit that tracks all U.S. immigration cases, reports
Since fiscal 2016, Cuellar has been instrumental in helping usher through additional funds for immigration judges to address the growing backlog of cases.
“Right now the judges are behind 1.3 million cases. With all the numbers that are coming in, I will tell you that those numbers are going to grow. So if we were at 1.3 million cases behind, imagine what is happening now?” Cuellar said during a call with media from Washington, D.C.
Cuellar is vice chairman of the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee. From fiscal 2016-21, he has used his ranking role to help secure funds for an additional 415 new immigration judges.
As of May 2021, there were 533 immigration judges nationwide.
If this latest budget bill is approved, this could bring the nationwide total to over 600 federal immigration judges.
Despite Congress appropriating the added monies, immigration courts have been slow to hire new judges, their staff, and to provide adequate courtroom space for them to operate.
Cuellar said he is working with the General Services Administration to ensure there are more offices and courtrooms to accommodate all of these judges. He is working
And he has stressed the need for more of these offices to be located on the Southwest border, where migrants are crossing into the United States.
“We want to continue adding the judges to make sure that we get to a number so we can start lowering the cases,” he said.