The number of foreigners landing in Los Angeles Immigration Court has surged in recent years, while the number of judges has remained about the same, causing crushing caseloads and lengthy delays.
Expanded immigration enforcement, including the ongoing search for illegal immigrants in county jails, is causing much of the rise, according to judges, attorneys and experts.
"I don't think it's possible for a court to implode from weight, but we may see," said former L.A. Immigration Judge Gilbert T. Gembacz, who retired last month after more than a decade on the bench.
Los Angeles immigration judges heard 27,200 cases last fiscal year, up from about 17,800 in 2000. In the last fiscal year alone, the number of immigration cases rose nearly 40%.
Immigration courts nationwide mirror the trend. Last fiscal year, judges heard 334,600 cases, up from 254,500 in 2000. During the same period, the number of judges increased to 220 from 207.