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Expand chart
Note: Pending cases equals removal, deportation, exclusion, asylum-only, and withholding only; Data: Dept. of Justice; Chart: Axios Visuals

The number of immigrants waiting on a judge to decide whether they can stay in the U.S. keeps climbing, according to Justice Department data.

Why it matters: Immigration-court backlogs "are basically crippling the whole system," Georgetown Law professor and former immigration judge Paul Schmidt told Axios.

By the numbers: On average, immigrants are waiting 727 days for decisions on their court cases — roughly twice as long as immigrants had to wait two decades ago, according to Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) which gathered millions of court records.

The big picture: The long waits have resulted in many Central American families being released after crossing the border illegally, because it is nearly impossible for their cases to be decided on within the 20 day detention limit for children.

  • The backlog also incentivizes migration. Migrants can expect at least a few months in the U.S. before they have to show up to court, immigration experts said.

The Trump administration cited the growing backlog as a reason for new rules all but cutting off Central Americans from gaining asylum.

  • Migrants who are disqualified for asylum under the new rule will still have the chance to fight deportation in front of an immigration judge.
  • And many of the administration's actions — such as increasing ICE arrests and limiting judges' ability to dismiss low-priority cases — have made the problem worse, according to Schmidt.

How it works: There are 431 DOJ-appointed judges handling immigration cases, up from 289 in FY 2016, according to Justice Department data. The Trump administration has ramped up hiring for immigration judges and put pressure on them to work faster.

  • While they wait for their court date, asylum seekers, green-card applicants, immigrants arrested by ICE and others are either held in an ICE detention center, asked to pay bail or released, sometimes with an ankle bracelet or other monitoring device.

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
18 mins ago - Technology

Epic's long game against Apple

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Epic's Apple lawsuit is costing the company dearly, but the game developer has its eye on a valuable long-term goal: prying tomorrow's virtual worlds loose from the grip of app store proprietors like Apple.

Between the lines: Epic isn't spending a fortune in legal fees and foregoing a ton of revenue just to shave some costs off in-app purchases on today's phones. Rather, it's planning for a future of creating virtual universes via augmented and virtual reality — without having to send a big chunk of their economies to Apple or Google.

Updated 23 mins ago - Health

The race to avoid a possible "monster" COVID variant

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

Slow global COVID-19 vaccination rates are raising concerns that worse variants of the coronavirus could be percolating, ready to rip into the world before herd immunity can diminish their impact.

Why it matters: The U.S. aims to at least partially vaccinate 70% of adults by July 4, a move expected to accelerate the current drop of new infections here. But variants are the wild card, and in a global pandemic where only about 8% of all people have received one dose, the virus will continue mutating unabated.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
48 mins ago - Health

Democrats are still looking for a plan on drug prices

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

Democrats have no workable plan to tackle the cost of prescription drugs, even with full control of Washington and after campaigning on the issue for years.

The picture: Voters still care about the cost of drugs, but Democrats don't have a feasible legislative strategy yet — or an agreed-upon policy to fit into a legislative strategy.

You’ve caught up. Now what?

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