The backlog of immigration cases in Minnesota has placed immense pressure on federal immigration courts, as the number of migrants crossing the borders continues to rise. With a limited number of judges, difficult decisions must be made regarding whether individuals should be allowed to stay based on asylum claims, status adjustments, or other relief options. In Minnesota, the situation is particularly challenging, with only six immigration judges struggling to handle the influx of cases. As a result, some lawyers are overwhelmed and declining new clients, while immigrants already in the system often feel rushed through their hearings.
The immigration court system is grappling with a shortage of judges, with only 650 handling cases nationwide. The Biden administration requested funding for 200 additional judges, but only half were approved by Congress. Consequently, the average processing time for a case in Fort Snelling’s Bishop Henry Whipple Federal Building is now 861 days, double the pre-COVID-19 timeframe.
Efforts to reduce the backlog have been made, such as encouraging the use of pre-hearing conferences, but the sheer number of cases remains overwhelming. The delays force individuals with valid claims to live in uncertainty, unable to establish themselves and build new lives. On the other hand, there are cases where winning is extremely difficult, and the longer these individuals stay, the more they need to seek alternative paths to permanent residence.
Given the magnitude of the backlog, some attorneys have been compelled to stop taking new clients.
The immigration courtrooms are often filled with families and individuals seeking a chance to stay in the United States, but the limited resources and immense backlog make the process overwhelming. As judges like Monte G. Miller work their way through crowded dockets, tough decisions must be made. The need for additional judges and efficient case management remains a pressing concern to ensure due process while addressing the backlog of immigration cases.