Immigration Court Backlog Tops 650,000 in U.S. with California Leading Nation

Judge Dana Marks, President National Assoc. of Immigration Judges (PHOTO: National Association of Federal Immigration Judges)

Judge Dana Marks, President National Assoc. of Immigration Judges (PHOTO: National Association of Federal Immigration Judges)

According to the latest case-by-case court records, the backlog at the end of November 2017 had reached 658,728, up from 629,051 at the end of September 2017. That number is expected to continue to grow, with the Immigration Court number of pending cases anticipated to climb by an additional 30,000 in the first two months of 2018, outpacing 2017 increases.

California leads the country with the largest Immigration Court backlog of 123,217 cases. Texas is second with 103,384 pending cases as of the end of November 2017, followed by New York with 89,489 cases, reports TRAC. 

“There is no single explanation,” said Susan B. Long, TRAC’s co-director in a recent Newsday report. “These are people before immigration court. These are considered deportation cases, but they could very well be seeking asylum and various forms of relief” to stay in the country legally.

Newsday also reported, “‘The immigration judges feel like we’ve been the canaries in the coal mines, saying that the immigration courts would be overwhelmed with caseloads and backlogs for more than a decade,’ said Dana Leigh Marks, an immigration judge in San Francisco who is a spokeswoman for the National Association of Immigration Judges.”

The immigration backlog findings are based upon current case-by-case court records that were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University.

For further highlights see: http://trac.syr.edu/ phptools/immigration/court_ backlog/apprep_backlog.php.
For full details, go to TRAC’s online backlog tool at: http://trac.syr.edu/ phptools/immigration/court_ backlog/

NYT Outlines Obama’s Immigration ‘Shift’

Central American immigrants who had been released from United States Border Patrol detention waited at the Greyhound bus station in McAllen, Tex., in July 2014. Credit John Moore/Getty Images

Central American immigrants who had been released from United States Border Patrol detention waited at the Greyhound bus station in McAllen, Tex., in July 2014. Credit John Moore/Getty Images

The New York Times is among those reporting that the Obama administration is “delaying deportation proceedings” for recent immigrants in cities across the United States, allowing more than 50,000 of those who fled Central American communities since 2014 to remain in the country – legally – for years. It’s not a true policy shift, but instead a cost-saving measure, experts say. They also say mostly families are the ones staying.
 
The NYT reported that: “The shift, described in interviews with immigration lawyers, federal officials, and current and former judges, has been occurring without public attention for months. It amounts to an unannounced departure from the administration’s widely publicized pronouncements that cases tied to the so-called surge of 2014 would be rushed through the immigration courts in an effort to deter more Central Americans from entering the United States illegally.”
 
The report also notes that “.. the delays are being made as a cost-saving measure, federal officials said, because of a lapse in enforcement that allowed immigrants who were supposed to be enrolled in an electronic monitoring program to go free. Some of those affected had failed to report to government offices to be fitted with GPS ankle bracelets, according to a February memo from the chief immigration judge, Print Maggard, in Arlington, Va. Now that the government will not have to pay the daily fee of $4 to $8 a person to monitor such bracelets, the immigrants’ cases have been pushed back for years, some until 2023, judges and federal officials said. The cases of those who met their reporting obligations are still being expedited, with some cases moving faster than lawyers and judges had expected.”
 

HuffPo Writer Notes Milestone For Immigration Court Backlog

The HuffPo writer B. Shaw Drake is noting an uptick in the number of immigration judges and some progress in Congress toward adding even more judges, a key to reducing the administrative backlog that leaves people waiting years and years to make their case for staying in the country. The report notes a new Human Rights First report: “In the Balance: Backlogs Delay Protection in the U.S. Asylum and Immigration Court Systems,” takes a deep look at the immigration court backlog, its causes and potential solutions. The report finds that chronic underfunding and hiring challenges have left the courts with two few judges to handle a steady flow of incoming cases. The result is wait times that stretch over three years nationally, and up to five or six years at the nation’s most burdened courts.

The crisis outlined: “As of May 2016, 492,978 cases were pending before the immigration courts, up from 480,815 just three months ago. That number that will likely top half a million cases when data is available for June 2016.”

You can read about the progress, such that it is, here: A Milestone In The Immigration Court Backlog Points To Progress