Government shutdown affects U.S. permanent residency hearings

The shutdown of the federal government has affected the lives of many people in Kentucky and across the United States. This includes not just residents who work for the federal government and those in need of services performed by federal agencies, but also immigrants seeking U.S. permanent residency.

While detained docket cases will continue to work their way through immigration courts through the government shutdown, non-detained docket cases have been cancelled. As of January 11, this meant that over 42,000 Immigration Court hearings have been cancelled, including hearings for those seeking U.S. permanent residency. Every week that the government shutdown continues will add another 20,000 cases to that number. It is estimated that if the government shutdown continues through the end of January, approximately 100,000 people will have had their immigration hearings cancelled, leaving them and their status in the nation in limbo.

This is significant as many of the individuals whose hearings have been cancelled have been waiting as many as four years for their case to be heard in court. One professional believes that, thanks to the government shutdown, these individuals may have to wait three or four additional years before their case will be heard in Immigration Court, due to the already-existing backlog in such cases combined with the need to reschedule thousands of cancelled hearings. As of the end of November 2018, the backlog of active immigration cases was over 800,000.

In Kentucky specifically, if the shutdown continues through February 1, then 981 Immigration Court hearings will need to be rescheduled, and if the shutdown continues through March 1, then 1,712 Immigration Court hearings will need to be rescheduled. These are sobering statistics for those in the commonwealth who are seeking a Green Card or U.S. citizenship. The effects of the government shutdown may be felt for months or years to come. Therefore, immigrants in our nation will want to ensure they are doing all they can to develop a strong case, in order to obtain a favorable result once hearings continue.