More than 50 additional prosecutors and judges have been assigned to work along the US-Mexico border on immigration cases which have surged under President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ zero-tolerance policy for illegal border crossings.
In order to handle backlogging and streamline the case hearings, Sessions has hired 18 supervising immigration judges. This roughly doubles the existing number of immigration judges, according to James McHenry, Director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review.
This decision coincides with media coverage of the detainment of a group of Central American migrants seeking asylum in the U.S.
“We are not going to let this country be overwhelmed,” Sessions said during the Justice Department announcement in Washington. “People are not going to caravan or otherwise stampede our border. We need legality and integrity in the system. People should wait their turn, ask to apply lawfully before they enter our country.”
A problematic and lengthy wait currently exists for asylum seekers who reach the southern U.S. border from Central American nations.
75 percent of asylum seekers from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador who applied between 2011 and 2016 were rejected, according to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.
However, the immigration courts are so flooded with these asylum applications that a single case can take up to three years to reach a judge. In this time, some applicants are released to family members in the United States with a work permit, and some do not return to the judiciary system for their final hearing.
The 18 new judges assigned by Sessions will work both in person and via video-conferencing on asylum cases and deportation verdicts.
Following the lead of Sessions, the federal courts have also expanded a policy program called Operation Streamline, which speeds the prosecution of immigrants accused of entering the United States illegally from about one-month to as quick as a single day.
In response to the attitude of the administration and rising apprehensions concerning immigration, the U.S. Justice Department announced last week that they will create 35 new attorney jobs between California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
“By deploying these additional resources to the Southwest border, the Justice Department and the Trump Administration take yet another step in protecting our nation, its borders, and its citizens,” Sessions said.