SOME COURTS OPEN, BUT NOT FOR ASYLUM CASES, AND THE PROCESS SLOWS OR STOPS FOR MOST GREENCARD / ADJUSTMENT OF STATUS CASE PROCESSING.
With its usual sensitivity and insight the Federal Government has decided to put asylum and many family based visas on hold while proceeding to adjudicate other less pressing issues. The estimate now is that the government shutdown could cause months long delays in the Political Asylum and many of the family based, applications processes.
With our firm doing only family based immigration, and with the world falling apart, to say nothing of significant physical danger in strife- torn areas such as Syria, we have been getting many inquiries from individuals wanting to get their loved ones "the hell out"; ASAP. Concern is high regarding longer than normal delays. Some services, not incidentally many of those financed by applicant fees will continuem Court hearings or other procedures for any immigrant who is in federal custody will also continue on schedule; and the Board of Immigration Appeals will hear requests for emergency relief from deportation as well as appeals for detained immigrants, according to the Justice Department. Some, but small comfort.
The asylum process, advocates in the Washington area and elsewhere said, is especially backed up, with about 350,000 cases pending before immigration judges. Even under normal circumstances, most cases take more than a year to complete.
"This is a nightmare. It is already a nightmare, because of the huge backlog in the court system," said Judy London, a lawyer with the Public Counsel agency in Los Angeles. "When we go into court, we are often told the first available trial date is a year later. This could mean more delays of months, or even another year." The delay in processing many other visas/adjustment of status/greencards is commensurate.
One of London's clients is Didier Vakumbua, 43, a medical doctor who fled his native Congo five years ago after he said police jailed and brutalized him for revealing human rights atrocities to foreign monitors. He spent several years in California while his asylum petition worked its way through the system. His wife and children, meanwhile, sought refuge in another African country.
Vakumbua won his case on appeal and began preparing to fly his family to the United States. Because one child has a brain tumor, he had been granted emergency permission to bring them quickly. But he still needed one more judge's signature on some paperwork -- and after the shutdown Tuesday, that court was suspended.
In the Washington area, officials at the American Immigration Lawyers Association expressed similar concerns. They noted that only about 10 percent of asylum applicants are detained and therefore will be allowed to keep any scheduled court date. For the rest, they said, every delay in the judicial process can make a crucial difference.
"Situations change. Memories fade. Evidence gets lost," Even life and death matters could depend on the studious application of the court to this issue; canceled hearings cannot be quickly rescheduled.
"It's good to have a little positive news, but what really worries me is that this fight over the shutdown and other issues is pushing immigration reform out of the picture," Nuñez said. "There is a lot of friction and smoke in the air, and there are bigger noises out there now. More to come as this fiasco unfolds in Washington. It is definitely to "throw the rascals out".