TRAC Statistics: Immigration Case Backlog Continues to Increase

Researchers at the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), a government-accountability project based at Syracuse University, announced recently that, as of the end of September, when fiscal year 2010 (FY10) came to a close, the case backlog facing U.S. immigration courts reached a record high of 261,083 cases pending. TRAC points out that this reflects an increase of 5.3 percent in the fourth quarter of FY10 – a staggering rate of increase, fully 40 percent higher than at the end of FY08. (See As FY 2010 Ends, Immigration Case Backlog Still Growing, by Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC).

California topped the charts in the total number of immigration cases pending for any particular jurisdiction, accounting for 63,539 unresolved cases, nearly one-fourth of all such cases nationwide. New York is next (42,256), followed by Texas (26,957), Florida (16,942), Illinois (12,795), and Arizona (9,180). Maryland’s case backlog was relatively moderate, by comparison, with 5,765 immigration matters awaiting adjudication.

When TRAC‘s statistics are filtered by nationality, almost a third of all backlogged cases concern Mexican nationals, who accounted for 79,440 of 261,083 cases pending at the end of FY10. The next five nationalities, in descending order, were China (23,698), El Salvador (22,342), Guatemala (18,815), Honduras (8,911), and India (5,101).

The courts with the highest growth rates for pending cases were clustered mostly in the southwest, according to TRAC:

“Among individual Immigration Courts, and considering only those with at least 1,000 pending cases, the court with the fastest building during FY 2010 was the Immigration Court in Harlingen, Texas, where pending cases jumped by 127 percent. The San Antonio court ranked second, with a growth spurt of 94 percent during this year. Las Vegas (up 82 percent), Chicago (up 62 percent), and El Paso (up 52 percent) made up the remaining top five locations experiencing the highest growth rates in case backlogs. Phoenix just missed out being included in these ranks with a growth rate of 50 percent.”

Since TRAC’s June report, average wait times have declined slightly for cases filed in immigration court, dropping from 459 days to 456 days – perhaps not cause for much celebration, since, as TRAC hastens to add, “Newly arriving cases, of course, have just joined the queue, so their wait times as yet are short, and this can bring down the average.” California continued to have the longest average wait times, at 630 days – thirteen days less than three months ago – followed by Massachusetts (615 days), Nebraska (519 days), Virginia (494 days), Pennsylvania (491 days), and Michigan (489 days).

Hats off to the TRAC project for compiling these statistics and making them available to the public in such a user-friendly format. It’s a useful tool for policy-makers, and for those on the receiving end of these policies. Let’s hope that greater transparency will bring about a renewed commitment to reducing these case backlogs, when the budget mandarins meet on Capitol Hill; our immigration court system has an important job to do, and certainly could use more help!

Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.