Press Release

Rep. Cuellar Secures 100 New Immigration Judges in the FY20 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Bill

Cuellar Pushes for Additional Judges to Address Backlog of Immigration Court Cases at the Southern Border

Washington | Charlotte Laracy, DC Press Secretary (202-226-1583); Leslie Martinez, District Press Secretary (956-286-6007), May 22, 2019

Washington, D.C.—Today, Congressman Henry Cuellar (TX-28), a member of the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee, announced that he secured 100 new immigration judges in the fiscal year 2020 appropriations bill for the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR). Each immigration judge is supported by a team; one attorney, one legal assistant; and up to two other positions (additional legal assistant, interpreter, and/or other mission support staff).

In addition to securing immigration judge teams, Congressman Cuellar secured funding to ensure these additional immigration judges have adequate court space to conduct immigration court proceedings and language that promotes immigration court efficiency.

Securing New Immigration Judges

For years, Congressman Cuellar has made it a priority to place additional immigration judges into border communities. He helped secure:

  • In FY16, language hiring at least 55;
  • In FY17, language hiring at least 10 judges;
  • In FY18, language hiring at least 100 judges;
  • In FY19, language hiring at least 50 judges.
  • In FY20, language hiring at least 100 judges.

For a total of 315 judges.

Immigration Court Space

While authorized 484 Immigration Judges, EOIR only has 426 courtrooms.  Congressman Cuellar ensured the committee provided adequate funding that supports EOIR’s acquisition of additional court space.

Increasing Court-Efficiency Initiatives

Congressman Cuellar’s report language encourages EOIR and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to explore the co-location of DOJ and DHS components with immigration related responsibilities, including immigration courts, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and medical care practitioners.

“The backlog of immigration court cases has expanded at such a significant pace that the system is overworked,” said Congressman Cuellar.  “The caseload has more than quadrupled since 2006, with more than 850,000 cases backlogged. The amount of immigration judges relative to the increase in incoming cases has caused extensive waiting periods, with the average wait of 746 days. This is not how our immigration judicial system should run.

“We can no longer detain individuals and families at the border or release them in hope that they will return for their court day. Increasing the number of immigration judges is a common-sense solution to the growing number of migrants seeking asylum at the border. Increasing the number of judges does not result in an increase in meritorious asylum claims. Out of every 100 credible fear claims, on average, only about 12 result in a grant of asylum by an immigration judge.

“By deploying more immigration judge teams, we are able to properly adjudicate the individuals and families entering our country while protecting our nation and the border. Promoting the rule of law and enforcing due process is essential to America’s democracy.

“I want thank Appropriations Chairwoman Lowey and Ranking Chairwoman Kay Granger; Appropriations Commerce, Justice, Science Subcommittee Chairman Serrano and Ranking Member Aderholt; and committee members, on both sides of the aisle, for working with me to help address the backlog of cases in our immigration courts.”

To view Congressman Cuellar’s speech on the Appropriations Committee hearing click here.

To view summary of FY20 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Bill Appropriations bill click here.

Myths vs. Facts About Immigration Proceedings here