According to an article in “The Hill”
Some asylum seekers who cross the border in Mexico and request asylum in the US may wait up to a decade before even getting a court hearing due to a backlog caused by overwhelmed US immigration services processing many migrants. The delay stems from changes made by border agents two months after President Joe Biden took office, when they began a no longer existing practice of fast-track, conditional release of immigrants, instructing them to appear at a US Customs and Immigration Services office at their final destination for court consideration, work previously done by border agents. However, immigration services are now handling this task and are struggling to cope with the volume of work.
This change prevented the overcrowding of holding cells in 2019 when some migrants had to stand on toilets to breathe. But the cost has become apparent as ICE staff tasked with issuing court documents struggle to keep up with the workload. Offices in some cities are now asking migrants to return in a few years. The additional work has strained ICE’s ability to perform its traditional role of enforcing immigration laws within the US. “We are at the breaking point,” said Jamison Mattes, director of enforcement and removal operations in San Diego.
As for migrants, the wait times for a court date vary. This month, ICE ordered asylum seekers in New York to return in March 2033, said US Representative Henry Cuellar, a Texas Democrat, at a recent hearing. In nine other cities — San Antonio; Miramar, Florida; Los Angeles; Jacksonville, Florida; Milwaukee; Chicago; Washington; Denver; and Mount Laurel, New Jersey — the wait is until March 2027.
Until then, the migrants in question won’t even appear in court,
although they may live and work in the US, amid a backlog that reached 2.1
million cases in January, up from about 600,000 in 2017.
ICE offices often face many people seeking assistance and answers to their questions. A government report by the Government Accountability Office mentions that an ICE office daily receives between 300 to 500 immigrants in an unknown city, mostly without appointments.
“The asylum system is in dire need of top-to-bottom reform,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told reporters last week when asked about the wait for a court notice.
In San Diego, many migrants are not the final destination and immediately receive a court date upon arrival. However, they have to wait in line and to ease the situation, the administrator issues pagers to visitors so they can wait for their turn in the cafeteria. Meanwhile, ICE continues deporting people from the US, which requires painstaking work and hourly monitoring of an individual. Recently, ICE agents at a shopping center parking lot in Oceanside at 4 am arrested a man who had returned to Mexico 17 times since 1999. He was smuggling migrants across the border and became a priority for ICE. Despite a budget of $9 billion, ICE has always been resource-limited. Biden has attempted to prioritize individuals who threaten public or national security or have recently crossed the border. According to a GAO report, 75% of migrants conditionally released at the edge have reported to ICE as instructed.