Backlog grows at Las Vegas immigration court |

Backlog grows at Las Vegas immigration court

LAS VEGAS (AP) – A backlog at the Las Vegas Immigration Court is slowing deportations.

The backlog reached nearly 1,600 cases in March, up 38 percent from the figure 18 months earlier and the second highest rate in the nation.

In all, the Las Vegas Immigration Court dealt with nearly 4,400 immigration matters in 2009, up from about 3,500 a year before.

Experts say the growing caseload reflects enforcement changes.

The Metropolitan Police Department in Las Vegas in late 2008 became one of more than 70 law enforcement agencies nationwide to forge a partnership with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The partnership allows specially trained officers at the Clark County Detention Center to identify immigration violators and place “immigration detainers” on them.

Local law enforcement placed immigration detainers on 2,700 inmates between November 2008 and May 2010. Some of those inmates would have been released after sentencing for other crimes.

During the same time, ICE deported nearly 1,900 of the county inmates. Others still may be undergoing immigration proceedings.

Experts say backlogs have grown because of a dearth of immigration judges nationwide. One of Las Vegas’ three immigration judges retired in December, and the Justice Department has yet to replace her.