Powers Law Group, P.C.
September 6, 2016
By Board Certified Immigration Attorney Ruby L. Powers
Update on the Houston Immigration Court – September 6, 2016
Due to an influx of women and children fleeing Central America since 2014, the Houston Immigration Court has been inundated with a spike in asylum and special immigrant juvenile cases resulting in a high case load to add to their already existing case load. In fact, of the 503,000 court cases pending nationwide, 40,000 cases are Houston cases. Of those 40,000 Houston cases, half of them have been set to a fictitious hearing date in November 2019.
To address this large case load, the Executive Office of Immigration Review has sworn in more judges nationwide. Hiring judges is a lengthy process due to vetting and background checks. At a recent AILA conference in Washington, D.C, the EOIR representative stated in many cases a Government employee has a faster track to being hired as a judge as they have already passed many of the required background checks.
During the last few years, we have had several immigration judges retire, relocate or one recently was taken off the bench. Although Houston has already lost judges in the last few years and there has been an increase in the case load, the Houston court has been trying to catch up. The Houston Immigration Court gained three new judges in the summer of 2015 and 2 new judges in the summer of 2016. Houston downtown non-detained court has seven judges and the Houston detained court has three. In addition, Assistant Chief Judge Wagner Jr. also has a docket of active cases. This is still not enough judges for the case load and many more are planned to be hired.
At a recent American Immigration Lawyers Association/ Executive Office of Immigration Review liaison meeting, attorneys were informed of a few key points. The Court plans to hear many of the November 2019 cases before November 2019 and plans to reschedule many of those cases for 2016 to 2017. Any motion or activity for a case could trigger a rescheduling of the case to an earlier date. The most important point for clients and those with court cases in 2019 is not to wait until 2019 to have a plan or search for an immigration attorney. It is very likely all of those cases will be rescheduled to earlier dates. Furthermore, with more judges to be hired, more office space for the courts will need to be found and it is very likely the new courtrooms won’t be located in the existing court locations.
For those in court proceedings, it is important to keep your address updated with the court and if you haven’t already, search out an experienced immigration law firm to prepare for your case.