Shutdown Affects Florida's Immigration-Hearing Backlog
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – President Donald Trump's partial government shutdown to secure a southern border wall has increased the strain on the U.S. immigration system – including in Florida. More than 60,000 immigration cases are in limbo in Florida, part of a record-high backlog that tops 800,000 cases nationally. Judges have been forced to indefinitely postpone hearings that were scheduled months and years in advance, since most immigration courts are closed in the shutdown.

Tallahassee-based immigration attorney Neil Rambana describes it as holding people hostage in the system.

"The whole community's harmed because these people are not able to move on with their lives, not able to contribute back to the economy, not able to travel outside of the United States,” says Rambana. “Things that, you know, they are looking forward to getting behind them."

Ramabana says preparing for a court hearing is already stressful, and can cost a lot of money for those with little resources. Some administration officials have criticized the long processing times and backlog for allowing people with weak cases to stay in the country for years.

A plan for ending the shutdown is uncertain. One idea includes allowing undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, a group known as "Dreamers," to stay in exchange for a border-wall deal.

However, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham said that has been tried before, and President Trump might not support it. Rambana thinks the entire immigration system needs an overhaul.

"Because the system is broken,” says Rambana. “And everyone on all levels, all parties, have identified that. They need to come together with some sort of comprehensive immigration reform that also addresses this backlog. "

According to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, which compiles U.S. immigration data, the average case making its way through immigration courts takes 718 days, or almost two years.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - FL
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A weekly podcast focusing on the people and stories shaping Florida politics produced by Trimmel Gomes an award-winning journalist and former statewide news director of Florida Public Radio. Gomes hosted its flagship program "Capital Report" and created the public affairs program "It's About Florida." Gomes is political commentator and regular political contributor to WTXL ABC 27 in Tallahassee.


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