According to recent federal data, 637,000 cases are pending in the nation's immigration courts. Florida has more than 42,000 of those cases, fourth highest behind California, Texas and New York. In the Tampa Bay area, there are more than 2,100 pending cases.
As the logjam grows, the average wait time for a hearing has also climbed, with some cities seeing court dates set as far ahead as 2022. In Miami, one of Florida's two main immigration courts, some immigrants won't get their day in court until November 2018. In Orlando, it's late 2019.
The delay is frustrating lawyers, judges and activists on both sides of the immigration debate who say the clogged system is deferring due process for hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom have valid claims to remain in the country. Experts say these numbers will continue to grow as President Donald Trump fulfills his promise to ramp up deportation efforts by targeting what used to be low-priority cases.
Along with the delay comes concerns that an overstrained system can't give the time and attention needed to ensure justice for immigrants.