BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – The U.S. Justice Department may assign additional judges to work on a massive backload of immigration cases at Bloomington’s immigration court.
MPR reports the Twin Cities immigration court has a record high backlog of 5,300 cases. About 150 of these involve people currently being held by U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.
The court is down to only two judges after a retirement last year. Currently three of its five courtrooms sit empty. Reuters reports that Bloomington is one of twelve cities targeted for emergency reassignment of judges. The justice department prioritized the cities due to high populations of illegal immigrants with criminal charges, according to U.S. Justice Department officials. Plans for the reassignment of judges remain in the preliminary stages.
The Twin Cities court serves Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. The additional judges may not get at the root of the problem however.
“For some, the length of time is caused by people desperately trying to find lawyers to help and represent them, and then go forward on their case,” Linus Chan, a law professor and director of the Detainee Rights Clinic at the University of Minnesota told MPR, “So in some respects, having more judges may not really fix the issue.”
Currently immigrants wait an average of more than 600 days to have their case heard, reports MPR.
The twelve cities targeted for judge reassignments have more than half of the 18,013 total pending cases involving illegal immigrants facing criminal charges, or already convicted of such charges, reports Reuters. In total, the United States has more than 540,000 pending cases in the immigrant court system.