The government's processing of illegal immigrants has broken down as the number of backlogged court cases has grown to a ratio of 1,456 per judge, prompting some courts to schedule deportation cases as far out as February 2022, according to a new Government Accountability Office assessment.

The audit agency tabulated a total of 437,000 pending cases, double what it was in 2006. What's more, the normal wait time for illegals to face a judge has grown from 198 days to 404 days.

But an analysis by the Center for Immigration Studies found that in some of the 58 immigration courts that employ about 300 immigration judges the backlog has become so bad that hearing dates are being set as far out as 2022.

CIS pulled this nugget out of the 153-page GAO report that highlights the backlog issue:

"As of February 2, 2017, half of courts had master calendar hearings scheduled as far as January 2018 or beyond and had individual merits hearings, during which immigration judges generally render case decisions, scheduled as far as June 2018 or beyond. However, the range of hearing dates varied; as of February 2, 2017, one court had master calendar hearings scheduled no further than March 2017 while another court had master calendar hearings scheduled in May 2021, more than 4 years in the future. Similarly, courts varied in the extent to which individual merits hearings were scheduled into the future. As of February 2, 2017, one court had individual hearings scheduled out no further than March 2017 while another court had scheduled individual hearings 5 years into the future, February 2022."

The doubling of pending cases, however, is not the result of more illegals crossing the border, said GAO, according to the CIS analysis. The actual reason: Courts are taking much longer to get through individual cases.

"Incredibly, GAO found, ‘the number of immigration court cases completed annually declined by 31 percent from fiscal year 2006 to fiscal year 2015, from about 287,000 cases completed in fiscal year 2006 to about 199,000 completed in 2015,' even as the number of immigration judges increased by 17 percent over that 10-year period," said CIS fellow and former Immigration and Naturalization Service counsel Andrew R. Arthur.

In his analysis, Arthur suggested that some of the backlog can also be blamed on the judges granting multiple case continuances. He wrote:

"One of the main reasons why IJs are taking more time to complete cases today than they did 10 years ago is an increase in the number of continuances that IJs have granted over that period. As the GAO noted (logically): ‘cases that experience more continuances take longer to complete.' After reviewing 3.7 million continuance records from FY 2006 through FY 2015, GAO concluded that continuances increased by 23 percent from FY 2006 to FY 2015 with ‘the percentage of completed cases which had multiple continuances' also increasing during that period. Most critically, the cases in which the largest number of continuances that GAO identified were issued, those with ‘four or more continuances,' increased from 9 percent of cases completed in FY 2006 to 20 percent of cases completed in FY 2015. Those continuances made an impact, as GAO found: ‘[C]ases that were completed in [FY] 2015 and had no continuances took an average of 175 days to complete. In contrast, cases with four or more continuances took an average of 929 days to complete' that year."

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com