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Shutdown affects immigration cases

Due to the federal government shutdown in late 2013, many people in Florida and around the country had their hearings delayed for months or years. These individuals were waiting to apply for asylum or for legal permanent resident status.

There were more than 37,000 individuals hoping to have their cases resolved. Instead, their permission to travel to see family or acquire a job has been delayed. Some of these individuals have waited years for a hearing date and now have to wait until 2015 or even later. The problem has been attributed to the staffing shortage by at least one immigration judge, with judges being understaffed as well. The effect has created an imbalance with individuals who have strong cases having to wait even longer for relief while those individuals who are likely to face removal are allowed to stay in the country for longer.

The individuals who were affected were not held in detention centers. About 70 percent of the immigration court hearings were delayed for a later date. About half of the individuals who did receive their hearings because they were in detention centers have criminal records. A report by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse revealed that about 50 percent of the immigrants who have been in immigration courts since the shutdown have received deportation orders. The cases that are in front of immigration review amount to a total of 360,000, with most pending for 573 days.

Individuals who have an immigration issue may choose to consult with an attorney experienced in immigration matters. The attorney might be able to provide advice about options that clients might have to seek legal status in the country for themselves or for family members.

Source: ABC News, "AP Exclusive: Shutdown Hurt 37,000 Immigrant Cases", Amy Taxin, February 22, 2014

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