A top Justice Department official told Congress Thursday that the number of pending cases before the nation's immigration courts has nearly tripled between 2011 and 2015, even though the number of immigration judges has fallen slightly.

Juan Osuna, director of the Justice Department's Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), is in charge of the office that oversees the country's immigration courts.

In testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, he said immigration courts are facing the "tremendous challenge" of dealing with almost three times the backlog, at a time of a hiring freeze.

"At the end of FY 2015, EOIR's immigration courts had 457,106 cases pending, marking an increase of more than 298,171 cases pending over the end of FY 2011," he said in his prepared testimony. That's an increase of almost 300,000 from the roughly 158,000 pending cases in 2011.

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