In the midst of a large backlog of pending immigration cases, the Las Vegas immigration court is getting two new judges, a spokeswoman said Friday.
The U.S. Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review announced it had filled 18 new judge positions, including the two that are coming to Southern Nevada. The new judges were sworn in on Friday.
The immigration judges who will be assigned to the Las Vegas immigration court include Yon Alberdi and Munish Sharda, said Kathryn Mattingly, spokeswoman for the immigration review office, which oversees the nation’s immigration court system for the Department of Justice. The new judges went through training Friday.
“We’re undergoing a hiring initiative to backfill more than 200 positions,” Mattingly said Friday.
As of May 31, there was a nationwide backlog of 448,792 immigration cases pending in 58 immigration courts across the country. In Las Vegas’ court, the backlog at the same time was at 4,199, up from 3,872 as of Aug. 31, 2014.
Priority is being given to those who are in detention.
The national caseload, which dates back years, is tied to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s enforcement and removal activities and a partial hiring freeze, which was in effect from January 2011 through February 2014, when it was lifted. Some positions went unfilled.
The total number of immigration judges in the Las Vegas immigration court will go up to three, as it has been traditionally. The court had been operating with only one judge at least since the fall.
Nationwide, the 18 new immigration judges will bring the total to 250 across the country, Mattingly said. But the hiring will continue.
Currently, the immigration review office has 319 authorized immigration judge positions.
President Barack Obama included funding for an additional 55 immigration judge positions in his 2016 fiscal year budget, Mattingly said. Congress has not yet approved the funding.
The federal 2016 fiscal year begins Oct. 1, 2015.
Executive Office for Immigration Review Director Juan P. Osuna in his Friday announcement said the judges come from various backgrounds, and they all share a “passion for the law, for justice and for serving our country.”
But he warned the new judges of their busy days ahead.
“The stakes in the cases that come before you will be high,” he said in his announcement. “… You will have to deal with a hectic, emotional climate in your courtrooms, with anxious families, overworked staff and attorneys who are often as overwhelmed with caseloads as you are.”
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