FIRST ON Acesparks: A bill introduced this week by Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, would significantly increase the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) prosecutors in order to adequately deal with the enormous backlog of cases facing the nation’s immigration courts.
The “Surging Prosecutors to Expedite Alien Removals Act” would establish a ratio of four prosecutors for every immigration judge in the Justice Department’s Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR).
President Biden’s FY 2023 budget request includes funding for an additional 100 immigration judges – who decide immigration cases and are technically Department of Justice employees. That was part of a $1.4 billion request to address a massive backlog of more than 1.5 million cases in the system. Migrants who are released into the US interior after claiming asylum are facing a wait of more than five years before their cases are decided.
Crenshaw’s office pointed to ICE’s budget justification that says its staffing model requires “3.9 attorneys and legal support (one litigation team) to cover the caseload associated with each [immigration judge] team” and notes that while EOIR judge capacity has increased by 150 judge teams, even before the new Biden request, the number of prosecutors has not increased.
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With that increase in judges, Crenshaw is concerned that the corresponding lack of prosecutors will mean that those in the country illegally and who do not have valid asylum cases will be allowed to stay in the US rather than be deported.
“Migrants are flooding across our borders illegally in numbers that make it virtually impossible to prosecute and deport them under the status quo,” Crenshaw said in a statement to Acesparks Digital.
“My bill would simply require a 4-to-1 ratio of ICE prosecutors to immigration judges so the Department of Homeland Security is adequately represented in immigration proceedings,” he said. “While there have been increases in the number of immigration judges, there has not been a corresponding increase in prosecutors. If this doesn’t change, the legal process cannot function properly and illegal immigrants will continue to be released into our country instead of being deported.”
The bill also clarifies that prosecutors are there to “represent [DHS] during immigration proceedings – not for other purposes.” It authorizes a $35 million appropriation for the coming fiscal year, and would require a report from the DHS secretary every 90 days until the ratio was fully implemented.
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The legislation is one of a number of bills the Texas Republican has introduced in recent weeks to combat the grueling crisis at the southern border. The border has seen over 200,000 migrant encounters for the last four months and the number of encounters in FY22 is likely to eclipse the historic numbers seen in FY21.
Last week he introduced a bill that would mandate DNA testing of migrant families and extend the time that illegal immigrant minors can be held in custody in order to stop children from being exploited by adults trying to use them to be more quickly released into the United States. .
Earlier this month, he introduced legislation that would exclude asylum claims made between ports of entry at the southern border, and would establish designated asylum offices abroad – requiring that migrants make their claims there rather than at the US border.
The Biden administration, meanwhile, has claimed that the border is “secure” and has called for Congress to pass legislation that includes amnesty for illegal immigrants already in the country.
Acesparks’ Andrew Murray contributed to this report.