Immigration judge warns cases are at standstill due to government shutdown

The president of the National Association of Immigration Judges (NAIJ) says cases are at a standstill as a result of the partial government shutdown over President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump conversation with foreign leader part of complaint that led to standoff between intel chief, Congress: report Pelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Trump to withdraw FEMA chief nominee: report MORE’s border wall.

“For all of the non-detain cases, which is the majority of our cases that are pending before the court, they have all come to a standstill,” Ashley Tabaddor, who is also an immigration judge in Los Angeles, said on Hill.TV, referring to cases involving individuals who have never been custody or have been released.

Tabaddor told Hill.TV’s Krystal Ball and Buck Sexton during an interview that aired on Wednesday that immigration judges, who work for the Department of Justice, have been told that they cannot return to work or even volunteer their time until the shutdown is over. She said she worries that they will have a “monumental” task on their hands once the shutdown is over.

"Thousands of cases a day are being canceled and they will have to be rescheduled once the shutdown is over but that is going to be another monumental task to deal with when we return," she said.

The immigration court backlog, meanwhile, continues to rise.

As of the end of last November, the number of pending cases on the court's active docket topped 800,000, according to Syracuse University. That's almost a 50-percent increase since the end of January 2017, when President Trump took office. 

Tabaddor said these cases can take up to four years to go through the system, depending on their complexity. She also warned that the shutdown is only slowing down this process even more.

“There’s a misconception that while if we don’t have the hearings for a day then everything will just get pushed back by a day or two or a couple of weeks,” she said. “That’s not how it works because we are booked up morning and afternoon years in advance.”

During his prime-time address on Tuesday evening, President Trump made his case to the American public about his proposed border wall, arguing that the U.S. is in the midst of a “growing humanitarian and security crisis” at the U.S. southern border.

The president, however, stopped short of invoking a national emergency, despite previous threats to do so.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer, Pelosi push Trump to back universal background check bill Sinema says she would back Kennedy in race against Markey Democrats threaten to withhold defense votes over wall MORE (D-N.Y.) and Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Democrats bicker over strategy on impeachment Overnight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi set to unveil drug price plan | Abortion rate in US hits lowest level since Roe v. Wade | Dems threaten to subpoena Juul MORE (D-Calif.) gave their response following Trump's address. The Democratic leaders criticized the president for asking taxpayers to pay for a wall that he has repeatedly promised would be paid for by Mexico.

—Tess Bonn