Digging into the backlog of pending cases in federal immigration courts in Pennsylvania is like using a spoon to empty an ocean.
New Jersey, with nine immigration judges and 9,100 cases, is similarly swamped.
Despite the nationwide hiring of more than 40 additional judges in the past year, the number of deportation cases, asylum claims, and green-card fraud prosecutions in America's 59 immigration courts is at an all-time high: 275,000, and climbing....
There is money for "night vision goggles for border patrols," said Temple University law professor Jaya Ramji-Nogales, coauthor of the book Refugee Roulette, but "next to nothing to fix the problems of the courts."
Nationally, the backlog grew 2.8 percent in the first four months of 2011 and is 48 percent higher than it was three years ago, according to a June study by a Syracuse University research group.
One factor contributing to the growth is "Secure Communities," a new program in which communities share arrest data with federal immigration agents. The result: more prosecutions.
Another is the tougher rule on reentry to America for immigrants caught here illegally. Now, instead of going home and eventually trying again for a green card, "illegal presence" in the United States is penalized by a decade's wait. That makes immigrants "fight like hell" in court, rather than depart voluntarily, Vandenberg said.
The Syracuse study, by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, found that immigration cases take longer than ever to complete - an average of 525 days in Pennsylvania, 395 days in New Jersey, 482 nationally.
Fortunately- perhaps- many of those individuals don't have to wait in jail for over a year to have their cases heard. Inquirer reporter Michael Matz noted
Approximately 40 percent of the defendants are in jail, awaiting hearings in an overwhelmed system. The rest are free on bail. Free on bail and free to roam the country which many of those individuals have entered illegally and in which many others are remaining illegally.
People who will eventually be exonerated waiting over a year in jail and others on the loose. Such is the wages of limited government.