Press Release

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

Congressman calls on EOIR leadership to get judges back to work during this pandemic

Washington | Charlotte Laracy, DC Press Secretary (202-226-1583); Alexis Torres, District Press Secretary (956-286-6007), August 5, 2020

  Washington, D.C.—Congressman Henry Cuellar (TX-28) secured funding in the FY21 Appropriations bill directing the hiring of 100 new immigration judges with support staff to reduce the backlog of immigration cases at our southern border. Each immigration judge is supported by one attorney, one legal assistant, and up to two other positions (additional legal assistant, interpreter, and/or other mission support staff).

To finance these additional hires, Congressman Cuellar also helped secure over $734 million for the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) a $61,034,000 increase from last year. 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.

To see Congressman Cuellar speak in the Appropriations markup in support of language to hire additional immigration judges, click here.

“The backlog of immigration court cases has expanded at such a significant pace that the system is overworked,” said Congressman Cuellar.  “The case backlog nationally has now exceeded 1.2 million, with over 189,000 of those cases in Texas. The number of immigration judges relative to the increase in incoming cases has caused extensive waiting periods, with the average wait time of 759 days; 793 days in Texas. 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 as well as Appropriations Commerce, Justice, Science Subcommittee Chairman Serrano 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;
  • In FY21, language hiring up to 100 judges.

For a total of 415 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 Appropriations bill on securing new immigration judges at the southern border, click here.

Immigration Court Space

Congress has authorized 534 Immigration Judges but 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 Appropriations bill on increasing court space, click here.

Increasing Court-Efficiency Initiatives

Congressman Cuellar secured 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 Appropriations bill on increasing Court-Efficiency Initiatives, click here.

“Weather Related Leave/ Reasonable Accommodations”

Congressman Cuellar calls on EOIR leadership to obtain proper computers, laptops, and work assignments for those judges not working from home. There are some judges on “weather related leave and/or reasonable accommodations,” which means they are not required to come into work. These judges are not able to work from home because they do not have a laptop or case assignment. There have been judges that have been at home since March and have not worked on a single case. We can do better with taxpayers dollars. Providing virtual capability to all those judges is imperative to reducing the backlog.