On December 22, 2018, President Trump refused to sign a bill to fund the government because it did not include border wall funding. As a result, a partial government shutdown is now in effect. Some of the agencies that are impacted include the Department of Justice which includes the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) that is commonly referred to as “immigration court.”
A total of 42,720 immigration hearings have been cancelled from December 24 through January 11, according to the report from Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC). About 9,000 of those cancellations have been in California alone. Experts estimate that approximately 20,000 hearings will be cancelled for each additional week the government is shut down. These cancellations will increase the already record-high backlog of over 800,000 immigration cases that existed before the shutdown started.
Some immigration courts are busier than others, for example, in North Carolina there are immigration hearing dates available starting in late 2020 and in Houston there aren’t any dates available until 2022. Before the shutdown, California immigration court cases had an average wait time of two years. Experts believe these backlogs will increase by several years after the government reopens.
If you have an immigration hearing scheduled during the government shutdown, your hearing will be cancelled. Most immigration courts are not fully staffed at this time and you will not be allowed to enter the court even if you have an appointment. We encourage you to stay informed about the government shutdown and as soon as it reopens, you should check your case status by calling the EOIR electronic phone system at 1 800-898-7180 and entering your Alien number (A number). The electronic phone system information is available in English and Spanish, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You should also receive a rescheduled hearing notice in the mail, but it is important to check your case status through the phone system as soon as the government reopens in the event the notice is not delivered in time.
*Please see our January blog on “How does the government shutdown affect your immigration case?“