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Immigration Court Backlog at an All-Time High

Plus: Harvard immigration program sues for ICE records, and COVID-19 cases at immigration jails skyrocket 520%

This summary was featured in Documented’s Early Arrival newsletter. You can subscribe to receive it in your inbox three times per week here.

The immigration court backlog is exploding, leaving judges with a heap of unresolved cases larger than the population of Philadelphia. At the end of December 2021, the number of pending cases reached 1,596,193, the largest in history of the immigration court system. Between October and December 2021, the backlog grew by nearly 140,000 cases, a record-breaking figure. And in the first quarter of 2022, there is the potential that over 800,000 new cases will arrive in the court. TRAC  

In other national immigration news…

Harvard Immigration Program Sues for ICE Records

The Harvard University Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program is suing federal immigration officials for not releasing records about the use of solitary confinement in immigration jails. The lawsuit, filed in federal court, states that the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement have failed to comply with records requests submitted since 2017. Advocates have continued to raise concerns over the use of solitary confinement on vulnerable immigrant populations, including LGBTQ individuals and people with disabilities. Associated Press

COVID-19 Cases at ICE Jails Skyrocket 520%

ICE detention centers have seen a 520% increase in COVID-19 infections since the start of the year, resulting in calls for increased vaccinations and the release of detainees. ICE data shows that more than 32,000 immigrants have tested positive for COVID-19 under the agency’s custody, and that the agency has reported 11 deaths from the virus. The surge comes as the country experiences a nationwide case surge due to the Omicron variant. CBS News

Poll: Most Americans Say Noncitizens Should Not be Granted Voting Rights

A Leger poll conducted for The Atlantic found that most Americans — 53% of recipients — believe noncitizens should never be able to vote in U.S. elections. A quarter did not have an opinion on whether noncitizens should be allowed to vote in local elections, Another 27% favored universal voting rights for legal noncitizens, while 20% supported only local voting rights. The poll comes after New York City extended local voting rights to legal permanent citizens. The Atlantic

Immigrants in Georgia Face High Bail Bonds

Immigrant families often struggle to afford bail bonds in Georgia, which are higher than others nationwide. The median amount granted by Georgia immigration courts is $8,000, and a local judge is said to have set a bond as high as $100,000. Judges often consider defendants’ likelihood of running away when setting a bond, but attorneys say a higher bond is excessive and has no correlation with appearance in court. Georgia is also one of the hardest states to receive asylum, and on top of bonds, immigrants must often pay attorney fees to increase their chances of receiving asylum. Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Texas Sheriff Facing Investigation for Routinely Confiscating Cash From Undocumented Immigrants

Police in Texas are investigating Sheriff Nathan Johnson, who allegedly had his subordinates seize cash and a truck from undocumented immigrants during traffic stops. One of his deputies said Johnson has routinely done this throughout his employment at the office. During a traffic stop in October, $2,742 was taken from an undocumented immigrant and marked as evidence. An official from the Texas Ranger Division, an investigative law enforcement unit, is accusing the sheriff of violating the state’s relatively lenient civil asset forfeiture laws. Texas Tribune

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