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El Pasoans’ concerns grow alongside rising number of pending immigration cases across the US

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- Over three million migrants are waiting on their immigration court hearings, according to Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC). That's up 1.9 million cases in roughly one year.

"Certainly increasing the number of immigration judges will help tremendously," said Immigration Attorney and El Paso County Commissioner for Precinct 3, Iliana Holguin.

According to a report from USA Today, there were 734 immigration judges as of October of this year. The last year of the Trump Administration, there were 517.

However, TRAC found that although there has been an increase in judges, the courts still have not been able to keep up with the pace; Judges are facing more than 4,500 cases each.

Officials representing The Executive Office for Immigration Review under the Biden Administration said reducing the immigration court backlog is one of their highest priorities, and the Administration requested funds for an additional 150 immigration judge positions in fiscal year 2024.

Despite these efforts, El Pasoans' concerns are growing.

Osama Azzam is the landlord for an apartment complex in Segundo Barrio. He told ABC-7, large groups of migrants gather outside the complex during the day, and even sometimes at night.

"The neighborhood doesn't like it because they didn't know who they're bringing. What are the background?" he said, "It's not a good idea. I don't know why they don't control the border."

Holguin said it's a matter of the legal pathways migrants are offered when trying to enter the U.S.

"Many of these individuals, if they don't have criminal history, if they're not national security risks, something like that, if they're not considered dangerous, they're going to be paroled into the U.S., which means that they're actually given permission to come into the U.S. while they go through the immigration court process," she said. "With the El Paso immigration court, we're seeing cases of immigrants who are coming into the U.S. being scheduled for a couple of years in the future. So sometime usually in 2025 is what we've been seeing."

Several El Pasoans expressed their concerns over where migrants will go as they wait for their court dates, as hundreds fill local shelters. But Holguin said there are options for them.

"There are different applications that do allow for employment authorization," she said. "That's just another reason to go and see an attorney or an accredited nonprofit organization as soon as possible."

ABC-7 spoke with many migrants living in shelters and on the streets in different areas of El Paso. Those we spoke to told us they entered legally, however, they said did not have paperwork indicating their scheduled court hearings.

Article Topic Follows: On the Border

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Kerry Mannix


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