DENVER (KDVR) — With thousands of migrants bussed to Denver from the southern border, many will need to file for legal status to stay in the country.
Immigration courts are backlogged and one immigration judge told FOX31 that processing new cases puts more of a burden on the exhausted court system.
“There are 2.6 million cases waiting to be heard in immigration court,” Judge Samuel Cole said.
Cole is an immigration court judge out of Chicago but spoke with FOX31 as Vice President of the National Association of Immigration Judges.
“There aren’t enough judges, there aren’t enough staff,” Cole said. “Evidence goes stale, witnesses disappear. It’s really hard for people to wait so long to have their cases heard in immigration court.”
That’s what Cole said happens when a case takes years to process through the U.S. immigration court, which falls under the Department of Justice, unlike other courts which are independent entities.
Some migrants could be given some temporary status while they seek a more permanent residence in the U.S. or even citizenship.
“Typically given a work permit,” Cole said, “so they don’t really have any formal status allowing them to be here but they’re in the system and often they are allowed to work.”
Other migrants might be granted asylum.
“They may never come to immigration court,” Cole said. “The idea of that status is people are coming from a place that has a problem that has been identified by the U.S. government and they’re allowed to stay here for a certain period of time.”
The challenges of processing immigration cases in court are also political, according to Cole.
“It changes from administration to administration,” Cole said.
The change affects the pace at which cases are tried in immigration courts.
“What the change means is that courts have to shuffle their dockets on a regular basis,” Cole said.
Colorado Senator Michael Bennet joined other lawmakers for a bipartisan bill that would help move cases through immigration courts much faster.
The bill, introduced three days ago, would make it easier for migrant children and unaccompanied minors to move through the system faster. In essence, it would create a separate children’s immigration court system.