A computer meltdown is crippling the nation’s immigration courts — creating an overwhelming backlog of deportation cases, The New York Post has learned.
The problem began April 12, when five servers that help power a
nationwide computer network failed and shut down the entire system, an
insider at the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs
Without access to the electronic records, court proceedings have
slowed to a crawl and officials are resorting to old-fashioned methods —
including paper, pens and cassette recorders — to keep track of cases.
One illegal alien who was ordered deported to his native Brazil
following a DWI conviction even got to skip a scheduled flight home
Friday due to the problem, the ICE source said.
He claimed to have filed a last-minute appeal, and prosecutors
couldn’t check to see if he was lying — so he was released under an
“order of supervision” that relies on him to check in with deportation
officers, the source said.
That man, who was not identified, came to the United States illegally
in 1988 and has a history with ICE of skipping out on bond.
The parts needed to repair the busted servers — located in Fairfax,
Va. — aren’t expected to arrive for at least two weeks, the source
A veteran immigration lawyer, Alexander Cane, predicted the glitch
would help aliens, possibly even leading to their release over “due
process” issues caused by delays.
Court workers are prioritizing cases and struggling to make and maintain official records without their computers.
At the immigration court in lower Manhattan on Monday, officials openly complained about the problem.
Judge Alan Page, who was presiding via video from Newark, set a
follow-up date for one case, then noted ruefully, “I guess we’ll have to
put it in manually.”
“Everything is accumulating. We just have boxes and boxes,” a clerk responded.
Another immigration lawyer, Eva Kozlowska, said the problem was
wreaking havoc with her practice because she can’t check online about
the status of cases.
“Furthermore, the toll-free, 1-800 number that gives information
about respondents, their court dates, what judges they are before and
other information is also not working,” Kozlowska said.
A statement posted on the Department of Justice Web site said, “A
hardware failure has resulted in the agency’s inability to perform some
functions related to its computer system.”
An ICE spokesman said, “The immigration courts have developed
alternative solutions and have continued to schedule and hear
immigration cases brought to the courts by ICE.”
Lauren Alder Reid, a spokeswoman for the Executive Office for
Immigration Review, added, “EOIR is not making any decisions regarding
the release of detainees outside of normal court processes.”