That number is expected to rise dramatically.
The study released Monday by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse calculated the total of nixed hearings from Dec. 24, after the start of the shutdown, to Jan. 11, noting that the tally would likely grow by 20,000 for each additional week the government fails to reopen.
That means up to 100,000 individuals waiting on their court dates may be affected if the shutdown, caused by the impasse over border wall funding, reaches the end of the month.
While those numbers aren’t official, TRAC analyzed court records to arrive at the estimates.
Among the states hit hardest are California, New York, Texas and Florida, altogether accounting for more than half of the cancellations.
The stalled hearings will only further jam up immigration courts across the country, which already have massive backlogs.
As TRAC pointed out, San Francisco Immigration Court Judge Dana Leigh Marks, former president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, told PBS News last week the shutdown has had “a devastating impact.”
“Many of the cases that are being canceled for the shutdown have been on my docket already for two or three or four years, and now I have no time in the foreseeable future to reset them,” she said. “It could be another three or four years before those people can expect hearings on their cases.”
Though the delays are a headache for some, Arizona immigration attorney Maurice Goldman explained to NPR earlier this month that “it may actually be a blessing in disguise.”
That’s because it gives additional time for immigrants who may not qualify for asylum status to remain in the U.S. and potentially qualify for an alternative status. By that same token, however, a delayed hearing could allow currently qualifying immigrants to be disqualified later on if immigration policies tighten up.
Philadelphia immigration lawyer Matthew Archambeault told NPR that he avoids talking about the what-ifs too much with his clients.
“The thing I tell them is, something’s going on, their hearings may not go forward, but to prepare like they’re going to go forward,” he said.