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The Golden Door

News and views on immigration law

Archive for July, 2011

Backlog in the immigration courts

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

Anyone routinely involved in immigration in the United States is aware that cases moving through the immigration courts take a long time.  Sometimes, cases take years to be adjudicated, and by years I don’t mean a year or two, I mean three or four or five years.  A recent article in the Philadelphia Inquirer in which I am quoted gives some idea of the backlog in the system.

Depending on where you stand, this backlog can be a good or a bad thing.  If you are not in immigration detention (which is a sugar-coated way of saying you are in jail), and you are fighting removal (which is a sugar-coated way of saying deportation), then it is a good thing because it gives you time to gather evidence for your case and lets you live your life in the United States for a longer period if you do not have a good chance of winning your case.  If you are in immigration detention, it means you languish in jail while your case plods through the system.  While you are in jail, it is difficult for your lawyer, if you have one, to communicate with you, and you are not free to gather evidence yourself but must rely on friends and relatives to do it for you, if you can persuade them to.

If, however, instead of being in removal proceedings you are affirmatively (rather than defensively) applying for an immigration benefit, such as asylum or permanent resident status based upon marriage to a permanent resident of U.S. citizen, but the government contests your eligibility for the benefit, this backlog in the immigration courts prevents you from getting on with your life.  You cannot make long-term plans while your immigration status is in limbo.  In addition, although you usually have work authorization while an immigration application is pending, this is not always the case so some applicants are faced with the question of how to support themselves while their case is being adjudicated.

Resolution of immigration court cases means that foreign nationals who have no legal right to be here are actually deported, while those who do have the right to be here can then concentrate on moving forward to build good, stable lives here, including contributing to their communities and the economy, rather than spending their time, efforts, and money on long drawn-out court proceedings.

One root cause of the backlog is that more people want to live in the United States than there are currently legal avenues for admission.  Comprehensive immigration reform that takes into account the factors that drive people to immigrate and promotes lawful immigration of the people who we want to welcome to our country would reduce the immigration court dockets and free these people to become contributing members of society.  Another cause is that while enforcement of the existing immigration laws has significantly increased since 9/11 and also under the Obama administration, thus funneling more cases into the immigration courts, the courts have not correspondingly been increasingly funded and enlarged.  While we can debate the pros and cons of ramped-up enforcement, the simple truth is that if we are putting more people in removal proceedings we need to also put more resources into processing these cases or else a huge bottleneck develops.  This means that more immigrants are held in detention for longer, on the federal dime, while their cases ooze through immigration court.  It’s pretty simple math, if you ask me.

If you are in immigration court proceedings and need a Philadelphia immigration attorney, contact us at, or check out the website at

834 Chestnut Street #206
Philadelphia, PA 19107
(215) 690-1933

U.S. citizenship abroad, by birth – update

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

As promised, here’s the update on the client who couldn’t renew his license to carry concealed weapons because he could not produce a U.S. birth certificate even though he is a U.S. citizen by birth.

The Philadelphia Police Department’s Gun Permit Unit re-considered its position, and this gentleman has been issued his license to carry, despite not being able to produce the mythical birth certificate.

When this client first came to me, I asked him out of curiosity what he carried and he answered, almost sheepishly: “Nothing.  But I want to be able to carry if I want to.  And now, it’s about the principle of the matter.”  Principles satisfied, case closed.