Date of Conferral





Public Policy and Administration


Heather Mbaye



Immigration courts in the United Sates are struggling to resolve 610,524 removal

proceedings cases with approximately 330 judges located in 58 immigration courts

nationwide. Due to the limited number of judges, case backlogs have increased steadily,

with the wait time being 854 days in 2017 for the first hearing and much longer for case

resolution. The purpose of this case study was to explore the perceptions and attitudes of

immigration attorneys about delays in removal proceeding hearings in an immigration

court in the southwest. Kettl's transformation of governance theory served as the

theoretical foundation for this study, which explored immigration attorneys' perceptions

about the effects of delays on the welfare of immigrant clients, the effects of delays on

client-attorney relationships, and potential solutions to the delay crisis. Data were

collected through semistructured interviews with a snowball sample of 10 participants as

well as deportation hearing observations and court document reviews. Data were

analyzed using the open coding technique. Findings indicated that legal representation

was challenging for undocumented immigrants as the lack of proper documents often

dissuaded immigrants from seeking legal guidance and they experienced challenges in

navigating workplaces, schools, and society. Findings also indicated inadequacies in

immigration courts and the need for more funding and resources such as judges, staff

training, online application submission system, and judicial system restructuring. The

implications for positive social change are directed at immigration policymakers and

decision makers as a better understanding of the delay crisis may help them to focus

attention and resources in helping to reduce the backlog and improve the judicial process.