Federal Shutdown Shutters Some Immigration Courts

Jan 11, 2019

As the government shutdown stretches on, many of the nation’s immigration courts are at a standstill. That leaves many people in a state of limbo.

The shutdown has not halted proceedings in courts attached to immigration detention centers like Georgia’s Stewart Detention Center, which were deemed essential services and whose employees are still at work even if they aren't being paid.

RELATED: Shutdown Affects More Georgians Than Washington, D.C., Residents

However, the shutdown has closed court for people who have been voluntarily working their way through the naturalization process, including the court in Atlanta where backlogs in normal times have exceeded 20,000 cases recently. Sarah Owings of Atlanta is a national board member of American Immigration Lawyers Association.  She said the shutdown is a major blow for people trying to play by the nation's immigration rules. 

"For people that are out and living here or working in Georgia and have been,  some for 20, 30 years, and are finally just awaiting their day in court? Those cases are all getting continued," Owings said.

Which means the years long wait to get into immigration court may start all over again. The missed court dates due to the shutdown have likely already run into the thousands.