Houston Matters

Immigration Lawyers Anticipate Government Shutdown To Impact Cases In Houston Region

Attorney Ruby Powers thinks making immigration judges work overtime or establish a system of visiting judges could be options to deal with the backlog after the shutdown.

Two local immigration attorneys told Houston Matters Wednesday they anticipate the partial shutdown of the federal government will impact cases in our region.

Texas saw a 30 percent increase in pending immigration cases over the last two years, reaching a backlog of more than 119,000 cases, according to a report by Syracuse University. Nationwide, the number of pending cases pending grew to more than 800,000 since Donald Trump took office.

Ruby Powers, of the Powers Law Group, told host Ernie Manouse the impact of the shutdown is more substantial on the non-detained immigration court.

Watch immigration attorney Ruby Powers talking about the potential impact of the partial government shutdown here:

Powers also explained one of the issues the shutdown could cause is that sometimes the reason why a person who has a case in court is eligible for a form of relief could become “stale or the qualifying relatives that make them eligible could age out.”

As an example, she said that, in case of cancellation of removal, it’s harder to prove that children depend on the person who will be tried in an immigration court if they have turned 18 or older during the shutdown period.

Myron Morales, a senior attorney with the Quan Law Group, highlighted the shutdown will add to the considerable backlog of immigration cases that existed in 2018. According to Morales, the backlog was at about 800,000 cases nationwide and he said Some cases have been pushed to 2021.

“I tell people, you know, get ready to wait,” Morales said, “because, without knowing what’s gonna happen, there’s just really no way to make that determination as to how long your case is gonna take.”

From left to right: Houston Matters host Ernie Manouse, immigration attorney Myron Morales and immigration attorney Ruby Powers.

Powers said that, when the shutdown is over and the federal government is open again, immigration authorities will have to figure out how to deal with the backlog. She noted some of the options could be making judges hold hearings on Fridays or other days when they don’t normally have hearings, as well as to make judges work overtime or use a system of visiting judges.

Powers also highlighted that a change decided last year entails that asylum cases should be scheduled within 180 days, “so they might try to make those asylum cases scheduled earlier.”

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