Press Release

Rep. Cuellar Fights for 100 New Immigration Judges to Address Backlog of Immigration Court Cases at the Southern Border

Congressman Fights for Additional Court Space and Diversity in New Hires

Washington | Charlotte Laracy, DC Press Secretary (202-226-1583); Alexis Torres, District Press Secretary (956-286-6007), January 9, 2020

Washington, D.C.—Congressman Henry Cuellar (TX-28) secured language directing the hiring of 100 new immigration judges, in the final spending bill, to reduce the backlog of immigration cases at our southern border. To finance these additional hires, the Congressman also helped secure over $672 million for the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), of which $4 million will be drawn from immigration examination fees, a $109 million increase from last year.

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.

“The backlog of immigration court cases has expanded at such a significant pace that the system is overworked,” said Congressman Cuellar.  “The backlog has now exceeded 1 million. The amount of immigration judges relative to the increase in incoming cases has caused extensive waiting periods, with the average wait time of 746 days. This is not how our immigration judicial system should run.

“Increasing the number of immigration judges is a common-sense solution to the growing number of migrants seeking asylum at the border. By employing more immigration judges, we are able to properly adjudicate the individuals and families entering our country. 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 as well as Appropriations Commerce, Justice, Science Subcommittee Chairman Serrano and Ranking Member Aderholt for working with me to help address this critical issue.”

Securing New Immigration Judges

For years, Congressman Cuellar has made it a top priority to quickly place additional immigration judges into areas of highest workload, including communities along the Southwest border. He helped secure:

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

For a total of 315 immigration judges.

In addition, the Congressman included language that encourages EOIR to hire immigration judges from a diverse array of candidates.

To see Congressman Cuellar’s language in the final spending bill on securing new immigration judges at the southern border, click here.

Immigration Court Space

While authorized 534 Immigration Judges, EOIR only has 426 courtrooms. For this reason, Congressman Cuellar helped secure new money for federal rental space to ensure there is adequate funding to support EOIR’s acquisition of additional court space for immigration court hearings. Additionally, the Congressman included language in the final spending bill that encourages GSA to find new ways to efficiently rent or construct court space.

To see Congressman Cuellar’s language in the final spending bill on increasing court space, click here.

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), and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

To see Congressman Cuellar’s language in the final spending bill on increasing Court-Efficiency Initiatives, click here.


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