On day 32 of the partial government shutdown, a clearer picture is forming of just how much the federal and immigration court systems are being affected. The shutdown debate over the border wall is directly affecting the immigration courts tasked with deciding who can legally come into America.
Georgetown Law Professor David Super said it’s ironic because immigrants who play by the rules and apply for asylum at the border are being hit hardest by having their cases canceled and rescheduled to the end of the list.
“For every day this goes on, and someone’s case is canceled, that may mean two, three, four years before they get heard,” Super said.
“Years?” asked Spectrum Washington reporter Taylor Popielarz.
“Years,” Super repeated.
The backlog of immigration cases was in the hundreds of thousands before this shutdown, and cases are normally scheduled years out. Researchers at the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University said by the end of this week, more than 80,000 cases will have been missed during the shutdown — and will now be at the end of the line for scheduling.
Federal courts from Washington, D.C. to Ohio, Super said the impact is modest right now, but growing. Courthouse staffs have been operating off reserve funds, but those will run out this Friday, unless the shutdown is ended.
“Criminal matters are largely proceeding as is,” Super said. “Juries are being impaneled, though not paid. After the courts run out of their leftover money, many, many civil cases will be put on hold and that, no doubt, will mean that there will be much longer backlogs, even once the courts do get funded.”
If the shutdown isn’t over by next week, many federal court employees will join the growing list of government workers who are either furloughed or working without pay. None of that seems to be inspiring progress on Capitol Hill, where Democrats say the president is wrong and Republicans say Democrats need to be willing to negotiate.
“If you’re going to show up with something, you need to think, ‘Ok, we’re going to negotiate. We’re going to put something on the table,’” said Representative Bob Latta (R-05). “And that’s what they’ve got to do. The party’s got to sit down and say, ok, let’s get our views out there and figure out where we can come to an agreement on this. And that’s what the president has been expressing.”
Latta said he feels Democrats aren’t negotiating in good faith. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-09) said Trump’s insistence for a border wall is a non-starter because she feels it’s ineffective.
“The president isn’t presenting the actuality of what’s happening at the border to the American people,” Kaptur said. “And you’re not going to solve the problem with a false solution.”
Popielarz also spoke with Professor Super about the SNAP food stamp program. He said recipients will get their benefits through February, but it’s not clear what will happen if the shutdown goes to March, but Super said some people will receive their February benefits this week, so it’s important to stretch them through February, if you can.