2018-2019 Government Shutdown Impact on Immigration Case Backlog

2018-2019 Government Shutdown Impact on Immigration Case Backlog

The thirty-fiveday government shutdown has stunted progress for hopeful immigrants by years, according to some legal experts. The impasse, which began on December 22, 2018, and ended on January 25, 2019, placed an even greater strain on an already backlogged immigration court system in the U.S.  

Courts are flooded with asylum seekers and those trying to avoid deportation. Clerks have been working long hours to process filings that were not received until the reopening. More than 86,000 immigration hearings were continued during the deadlock across 800,000 cases pending. 

There Was a Backlog Before the Shutdown? 

Yes, you heard that right. There were 809,041 cases backlogged on November 31, 2018. Before the shutdown, strategies were being put into place to expedite processing. The idea was to place a processing quota across 400 immigration judges while adding an extra 75 judges to the roster. Since the shutdown occurred, these plans never came into fruition. 

What Happened to People in Immigration Detention? 

At the turn of the new year, about 48,000 people were being held and processed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. The heavy-handed law enforcement agency is considered to be an essential part of human safety by the U.S. government. It was one of the few agencies that continued to operate during the shutdown.  

Applicants Are Treated Differently Based on Status 

Citizenship and green card applicants were still being processed. This was because it is funded in large part by funding fees and managed by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS. On the other hand, asylum seekers were heavily impacted. They have already been waiting patiently to receive the ‘ok’ to bring family to safety. Now, years could pass before new hearing dates are set. 

The presidential administration states that individuals with challenging cases are given additional time to stay in the U.S. and avoid deportation at the moment. Plus, they have more time to strategize with their immigration lawyers. Advocates of immigrants claim that this places unnecessary pressure on families with strong claims to asylum. 

Premium Processing on H1B Visas Resume 

Premium processing resumes on February 19, 2019 for H1B petitions filed before the shutdown. A premium processing guarantees that the USCIS will adjudicate on the petition with fifteen days of receipt or the processing fee is refunded. Adjudication is given through a decision on the petition or request for additional evidence. 

Should You Hire an Immigration Lawyer to Move Your Case Forward? 

Hiring an immigration lawyer is an excellent way to make sure that you are meeting all of the legal requirements on the road ahead while staying current on the timeline of processing. Since the courts are still sorting out the aftermath, it’s critical that you are vigilant in watching for new developments as they arise. 

It’s a scary time, but remember that you don’t have to stand alone. Contact Omar Salguero Law today to move your case forward as quickly as possible. We have been proudly serving families in the Northern Illinois area. For more information, please reach out to our office by calling 815-446-0770 or completing our online form. 

About The Author

Omar Salguero
Attorney at Law: Immigration Lawyer I am the founder of Law Offices of Omar Salguero-Duarte & Associates, an Immigration law firm with offices located in Rockford, DeKalb, and Aurora, Illinois.
El abogado Omar habló con Univision sobre cómo el frío y el cierre del gobierno afectaron a los tribunales de inmigración.Application Process for Venezuelan Family Members Immigrating to the U.S.


Omar A. Salguero is an Immigration law firm with offices located in Rockford and Aurora, Illinois.

We represent clients throughout Winnebago County, Boone County, Ogle County, Stephenson County, Cook County, Dupage County, Kendall County, Kane County, Dekalb County, McHenry County including the communities of Rockford, Belvidere, Loves Park, Rochelle, Roscoe, DeKalb, Machesney Park, Poplar Grove, Rockton, Byron, Cherry Valley, Pecatonica, Freeport, South Beloit, Marengo, Woodstock, Elgin Chicago, Naperville Geneva West Chicago and Crystal Lake.


2000 W. Galena Blvd.

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Aurora, IL 60506

Phone: 815-446-0770
Fax: 815-900-7400


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Rockford, IL 61108

Phone: 815-446-0770
Fax: 815-900-7400



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