2019 Government Shutdown and Its Impact on Immigration

The federal government officially shutdown Friday, December 21, 2018 at midnight when Congress couldn’t agree on a spending plan that included $5 billion President Trump requested for a wall on the nation’s southern border. President Trump has previously given government workers Christmas Eve off and December 25this a federal holiday so many impacts of the shutdown weren’t felt immediately. As the closures do continue to grow, so will the impact.

The partial federal government shutdown has closed immigration courts forcing judges to indefinitely postpone hearings that had been scheduled months, sometimes even years, in advance. Some of the cases that are being postponed are for final asylum decisions, cases that often include expensive resources like legal representation, expert testimonies and witnesses traveling from out of town. As soon as the shutdown ends, all of the cancelled hearings will be rescheduled. For immigration courts under the Department of Justice, all non-detained individuals with hearings scheduled since December 22 have had their appointment cancelled or rescheduled for a later date. While detained immigration seekers have had their cases go as planned. The U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services’ business has been uninterrupted, thanks to the agency’s fee-based system.

The non-detained docket has stopped so those who are in removal proceedings but not detained are not having their hearings. It seems that Trump is jeopardizing his administration’s deportation machine in hopes of a wall that several critics say will do little to keep undocumented immigrants out of the country. Studies research group shows that the majority of recent undocumented arrivals do not travel to the United States over the southern border, but rather are visa overstays. In addition to other Trump administration policies, the termination of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and certain Temporary Protected Statuses (TPS) creates a new population of people that are going to be placed into removal proceedings and added into the backlog.

If hearing dates get pushed years into the future, it can affect a person’s eligibility to stay in the U.S. Evidence can grow old, country conditions can change, and fingerprints taken as part of a background check might need to be rerun. Meanwhile, American immigration judges and court staff are struggling as well. With this partial government shut-down the nation’s immigration courts have been paralyzed. Several hundred undocumented immigrants have been avoiding deportation orders each day that the shut-down goes on. They are among several hundreds of others whose cases will be postponed for years—or, indefinitely—for everyday the closure continues.

If you have a pending immigration case in immigration court it is important that you keep in contact with your attorney. The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) has an electronic phone system to provide customers with ready access to immigration court information in English and Spanish. Users can dial 1-800-898-7180 to obtain case status information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The information available is:

  • Next hearing date, time, and location

  • Case processing information

  • Immigration judge decision outcome and date

  • Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) case appeal information, including appeal due date, brief due date, decision outcome and date

  • Filing information

Due to the government shutdown it is important to understand that while the hotline may be up and running the information may not be the most updated.

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