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The Philadelphia Inquirer.com
July 18, 2011

Immigration cases clogging federal courts
By Michael Matza

Digging into the backlog of pending cases in federal immigration courts in Pennsylvania is like using a spoon to empty an ocean. New Jersey, with nine immigration judges and 9,100 cases, is similarly swamped. Despite the nationwide hiring of more than 40 additional judges in the past year, the number of deportation cases, asylum claims, and green-card fraud prosecutions in America's 59 immigration courts is at an all-time high: 275,000, and climbing. Nationally, the backlog grew 2.8 percent in the first four months of 2011 and is 48 percent higher than it was three years ago, according to a June study by a Syracuse University research group. One factor contributing to the growth is "Secure Communities," a new program in which communities share arrest data with federal immigration agents. The result: more prosecutions. Another is the tougher rule on reentry to America for immigrants caught here illegally. Now, instead of going home and eventually trying again for a green card, "illegal presence" in the United States is penalized by a decade's wait. That makes immigrants "fight like hell" in court, rather than depart voluntarily, Vandenberg said. The Syracuse study, by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, found that immigration cases take longer than ever to complete - an average of 525 days in Pennsylvania, 395 days in New Jersey, 482 nationally.

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, Syracuse University
Copyright 2011
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