Shutdown halts many immigration hearings; federal courts could be affected

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The government shutdown caused by a stalemate over border wall funding has halted many proceedings in immigration courts and could soon impact federal courts.

Immigration courts in detention centers are continuing to operate, but other immigration court hearings are being rescheduled, report NPR and the Washington Post.

Federal courts, meanwhile, are using court fees and other funding sources to continue most operations through about Jan. 11, according to the Wall Street Journal and a press release by the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts.

After that, federal courts will begin to face challenges, Administrative Office spokesperson David Sellers told the Wall Street Journal. Courts will have to develop plans for reduced operations. Criminal cases and other critical cases will likely continue while civil cases will likely see a slowdown.

Some federal courts have already issued blanket orders that suspend civil cases involving the federal government. The Justice Department has also asked courts to delay cases involving its lawyers.

One federal judge, however, is refusing to go along with a general order in his district delaying civil litigation involving the U.S. government, report the Charleston Gazette-Mail and the Associated Press.

U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin of West Virginia said he is exempting his own cases from the general order.

“It is my view that the government should not be given special influence or accommodation in cases where such special considerations are unavailable to other litigants,” he wrote.

Ashley Tabaddor, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, told NPR that the shutdown will cause headaches for immigration judges who are already overburdened. Tabaddor says she has 2,000 pending cases, while some judges have double that number.

“We don’t have time to adequately consider the cases that we do have, much less have to spend extra time to think about what we’re going to do with all the cases that have to be rescheduled,” she said.

Updated at 11:05 a.m. to include information on Judge Goodwin’s order.

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