How Sequestration Could Impact the Immigration System

The growth in the immigration backlog over recent years is formidable. As of March 2012, a record 305,556 cases were pending in immigration court, according to an MPI report. In 2007, the backlog was about 174,395 cases.

Still, it's commonly misunderstood that the backlog in immigration cases is solely because of overworked judges. Another part of the problem is that there are only a limited number of certain visas and other options for immigrants in removal proceedings.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

USCIS is the branch of the federal immigration system that deals with legal immigration, including things like visa processing and naturalization. The agency hasn't grown as fast as the immigration enforcement arms of the federal government, and that means possible budget cuts could be felt more strongly.

"They are serving the people who play by the rules, and those functions are going to be hard-hit because they have less [leeway] in their budget," Meissner said.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

CBP deals with regulating trade and monitoring the border. The agency includes Border Patrol, but its operations go beyond that. One of the biggest places budget cuts could hurt CBP would be at the ports of entry, according to Meissner. That could mean longer lines for airline passengers when entering the U.S. and a slowdown of people and goods crossing at land borders with Mexico and Canada.

Trade between the U.S. and Mexico is a big deal. The exchange of goods and services between the two countries added up to $500 billion in 2011.

This story was updated on February 26, 2013, at 5:45pm.

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