July 8, 2014
The U.S. Department of Justice would get $64 million and about 40 additional immigration judges under President Obama’s new plan to address the increased number of immigrants illegally crossing the Southwest border.
The White House plan asks Congress for $45.4 million to hire judge and support staff teams to reduce the processing time of immigration cases, as well as expand courtroom capacity with additional video conferencing and other equipment, White House officials announced Tuesday.
The request also includes $1.1 million for more immigration litigation attorneys, and $15 million for legal representation of children in immigration proceedings, the White House said. Another $2.5 million would expand legal orientation programs that provide assistance to adults and custodians of children in the immigration court system.
Overall, Obama wants to spend $3.7 billion on an “aggressive deterrence and enforcement strategy” to address the high rates of apprehensions and processing of children and individuals from Central America crossing the border in the Rio Grande valley.
“This surge of resources means that cases are processed fairly and as quickly as possible, ensuring the protection of asylum seekers and refugees while enabling the prompt removal of individuals who do not qualify for asylum or other forms of relief from removal,” the White House said in a written statement.
Obama on Tuesday will send the supplemental appropriation request to Congress for fiscal year 2014, which ends Sept. 30. The fate of the request on Capitol Hill is unclear, particularly with budget constraints that have loomed over lawmakers for years.
White House officials, on a conference call with reporters, said they hope the request “will be treated as the urgent humanitarian issue that it is” and met with bipartisan support.
Obama has already requested Congress spend $17 million in fiscal year 2015 for 35 new immigration teams and 15 Board of Immigration Appeals attorneys in the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review.
The immigration court’s caseload is increasing to unsustainable levels, the Justice Department said. Between fiscal years 2009 and 2013, the matters pending adjudication grew by 56 percent, from 229,000 cases to 358,000.
Combined, the 40 judicial teams in Tuesday’s emergency request and the 35 judge teams from the fiscal year 2015 budget request would provide sufficient resources to process an additional 55,000 to 75,000 cases annually, the White House said.
Still, that number falls far short of the number of judges that would have been added under the leading immigration reform bill that passed in the Senate in June 2013. That bill, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, calls for nearly doubling the number of immigration court judges, with 225 hires over the next three years.
However, the reform bill never got a vote in the House, and Obama and House Republicans have all but abandoned it during this election year.