Immigration Court Backlog Jumps While Case Processing Slows

The Immigration Court's backlog keeps rising. As of the end of May 2018, the number of cases waiting decision reached an all-time high of 714,067. This compares with a court backlog of 542,411 cases at the end of January 2017 when President Trump assumed office. During his term the backlog has increased by almost a third (32%) with 171,656 more cases added. See Figure 1.


Figure 1. Pending Cases in Immigration Court

It is noteworthy that the pace of court filings has not increased - indeed, filings are running slightly behind that of last year at this time. Instead, what appears to be driving the burgeoning backlog is the lengthening time it now takes to schedule hearings and complete proceedings in the face of the court's over-crowded dockets.

While the Justice Department, including Attorney General Sessions and court administrators, have implemented a number of new policies with the announced aim of speeding case dispositions, their efforts thus far have not had the desired result and appear to have actually lengthened completion times so that these have risen to new all-time highs.

For example, cases that ultimately result in a removal order are taking 28 percent longer to process than last year - up from 392 days to an average of 501 days - from the date of the Notice to Appear (NTA) to the date of the decision. And compared with the last full fiscal year of the Obama administration, cases resulting in removal take an average of 42 percent longer.

Decisions granting asylum or another type of relief now take over twice as long as removal decisions. Relief decisions this year on average took 1,064 days - up 17 percent - from last year. Again, these times represent a new all-time high for the court.

Current Wait Times for a Court Hearing


Posted by Nolan Rappaport