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Government shutdown slows immigration courts

The effects of the partial U.S. government shutdown affects thousands of federal workers. However, many in Illinois only began to feel some inconvenience as the impasse reached its second week. The immigration courts have been especially impacted as they now will have to face an already backlogged docket of cases once the government's budget matters are resolved.

About 400 judges handle immigration cases across the country, including those for people seeking asylum or whose visas have already expired during the long wait for a hearing. Before the shutdown, those judges had over 800,000 cases before them, and those cases are now moved indefinitely into the future. In Chicago, the average wait time for an immigration hearing is longer than four years, among the longest wait in the country. The average wait in the United States is nearly two years.

Court dates for 2019 are already booked, so many immigration cases will not be heard until well into 2020 or later. Those who are detained while awaiting a court hearing may still get their chance in court without further delay. However, for others, their hopes of obtaining lawful status or the protections of asylum may be put off indefinitely, while those whose hearings may have ended in deportation can relax, at least for now.

Most immigration processes move slowly and meticulously. The government shutdown may have slowed the progress of the immigration courts even more. Nonetheless, those in Illinois with concerns about their status or other issues may still seek advice and answers from a knowledgeable immigration attorney.

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