TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Immigration courts across the country are facing their largest backlog ever according to TRAC, a nonpartisan, nonprofit data research center affiliated with Syracuse University.
Trac has been collecting data on the immigration court backlog for over 10 years now.
"I was shocked, I was really shocked," Susan Long, the co-director of TRAC, said about the latest backlog numbers. "I've never seen anything like that."
The numbers show that 1,596,193 cases were waiting for a judge at the end December 2021. 138,578 of those cases were added in the last quarter of the year.
"It's just exploding," Long said.
Tthe wait time to get a hearing is about five years, according to Long.
"No matter how fast you run, you're falling further and further behind," Long said about the system in its current state.
The pandemic has exacerbated some of the issues, but Long said that is just one of the many contributing factors that is clogging the system.
In Tucson, Maurice Goldman, an immigration lawyer, has seen the backlog first-hand.
"There seems to be no end in sight," Goldman said. "It's a tough situation for people. The hardship is quite great."
For those seeking asylum the wait time can be problematic when their family members are still in another country. He added that for others who might not have a strong case in court, the wait time is beneficial as it lets them stay in the country longer.
While Tucson is seeing a backlog, Goldman said it is relatively minor compared to the backlog larger cities like Phoenix are seeing.
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