Government shutdown: Many asylum courts are closed but USCIS is still processing applications and ICE is still making arrests.

Petitions for political asylum and non-emergency deportation cases are among the matters that could be delayed for months if the shutdown lasts more than a few days, according to immigration lawyers and advocates.

Petitions for political asylum and non-emergency deportation cases are among the matters that could be delayed for months if the shutdown lasts more than a few days, according to immigration lawyers and advocates.

Despite the temporary shutdown of the U.S. Government’s non-essential services, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) is processing applications and ICE officers are still making immigration arrests. Having said that, a recent ABC News article contains a list of ways the shutdown will affect immigration agencies, including immigration paperwork, enforcement, guarding the border, processing visas and passports and immigration courts. What few people might know is that USCIS is “almost entirely self-funded.” The article further explains that, “The fees they charge cover 95 percent of their budget, according to spokesperson Christopher Bentley.[i]

While immigration courts remain partly open, political asylum cases delayed which adds insult to injury to people already in a bad place.

“The shutdown is monumental for my clients most in need. Those who are in removal proceedings are facing years of further delay because only detained dockets are active and the asylum offices are greatly affected. These are the most vulnerable people in the immigration system.” Attorney KiKi M. Mosley.

Backups in asylum courts already make it difficult for undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. seeking asylum from persecution in their home country. Currently 16 immigration courts are closed and 42 are still open, and 23 of them handle only detained immigrants. Reported in a recent Washington Post article, “The asylum process, advocates in the Washington area and elsewhere said, is especially backed up, with about 350,000 cases pending before immigration judges.[ii]” The article continues to report that delays in securing trial dates for asylum hearings could be months or years.

A Los Angeles attorney who works with the Public Counsel agency has a client who is a prime example of those victimized by the system: Mr. Didier Vakumba, 43, “a medical doctor who fled his native Congo five years ago after he said police jailed and brutalized him for revealing human rights atrocities to foreign monitors.”

Dr. Vakumba’s family and sick child with a brain tumor are now in limbo because the final judge’s signature is unavailable because the court was suspended due to the shutdown.

Doctor Vakumba and his family have spent several years waiting for his asylum petition to “work its way through the system.” While he’s been in California, his wife and children have not been with him and are in another country in Africa where they sought refuge. Vakumba’s petitions, under dubious circumstances, were approved by the immigration court to bring his family to the U.S. so his child with a brain tumor could receive emergency medical care. The shutdown brought everything to a halt and, because he is missing one more judge’s signature, from a court that has been suspended, Vakumba’s progress has also been suspended. “I am happy because I finally won my case, but I am frustrated, too,” Vakumba said Tuesday afternoon, speaking a mixture of French and Spanish. “I have been waiting a very long time to see my family.”

While many people say they are not affected by the current shutdown, some families like Dr. Vakumba’s are decimated over the tragedies in which they find themselves, waiting for stubborn politicians to agree on matters to get the country back on track and restore the hopes and dreams of asylum seekers. If you would like more information about the shutdown and how it may affect your asylum case or know someone seeking refuge, please be in touch with the Law Offices of KiKi M. Mosley.

Attorney KiKi M. Mosley is licensed to practice law by the State of Illinois and Louisiana. She is skilled and experienced in complex immigration law issues. For more information about the law firm, please tap/click here to visit the rest of the website, and do not forget to “Like” the firm on Facebook and “Follow” on Twitter or Google Plus.


[i] ABC News: Here’s How the Shutdown Affects Immigration Services. By Ted Hesson, Oct. 1, 2013.

[ii] The Washington Post: Immigration courts remain partly open but political asylum cases delayed. By Pam Constable, Oct. 1, 2013.

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