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3,781 immigration cases pending in already backlogged Michigan court

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DETROIT, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) – Immigration attorneys are warning that already backlogged immigration cases will likely take even longer as new policies under the Trump administration go into effect.

According to a list obtained by the I-Team from the Executive Office for Immigration Review, Michigan’s immigration court based out of Detroit has 3,781 pending cases.

Throughout the entire country, there are 542,646 cases pending.

Susan Reed, a managing attorney for the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center in Kalamazoo said the long waits affect also affect legal residents, such as those in the United States on Visas.

“If someone with a Visa leaves the U.S. to take care of a relative overseas, sometimes they lose their green card,” Reed said, referring to some of her clients.

“They could be readmitted, but they’re sent to court…it could be something extremely simple, but because of the backlog they spend years in limbo,” she added.

Reed says she has even seen some cases take as long as 17 years.

The Trump Administration and Department of Homeland Security have recently issued new guidelines giving federal agents, particularly those in Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), more power to detain and deport undocumented immigrants.

Under the new guidelines, some areas have seen an increase in ICE presence and an increase in enforcement.

Reed says she and others at the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center have noticed an increase in arrests as well.

“We’re overwhelmed with calls…we’re seeing a lot more activity by ICE and we’re expecting to see even more activity, particularly throughout the agricultural season in Michigan.”

The Trump Administration has insisted it will expedite the process of sending undocumented immigrants out of the country, especially for those who have committed crimes and those who have been in the U.S. for less than two years, but some, like Reed, say that in and of itself is a way of denying some legal rights.

“They’re told by ICE, ‘you’ll be in jail for a long time, you’ll be waiting for a long time, you know you won’t win,” she said.

Reed added that ideally, more skilled and trained judges on the immigration bench would help solve the problem, along with more resources within the Board of Immigration Appeals, but she cautioned there isn’t any sign of that happening.

“We should expect it to get much worse,” she added, referring to the new ICE guidelines.

Michigan is far from being alone with backlogged and pending immigration cases. According to the Executive Office of Immigration Review, Houston, Texas has almost 45,000 pending cases, and New York City has more than 72,000 immigration cases pending.

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