TRAC Immigration: A Small Drop in Immigration Court Backlog

It’s another case of good news, bad news. According to TRAC Immigration, a government watchdog organization based at Syracuse University, case backlogs at U.S. immigration courts have dipped slightly in the past couple months, due to a drop in new case filings. In November, TRAC reports, the case backlog declined by 0.2 percent, to 321,041 cases, and dropped overall by 1.2 percent for the 2012 fiscal year that ended on September 30. [See TRAC Immigration, Immigration Court Backlog Falls Slightly Again in November, But Wait Times Inch Up, 21.Dec.2012.]

Now the less-pleasant news: TRAC reports that, “the backlog is still 7.9 percent higher than it was at the end of September 2011, and 22.2 percent higher than at the end of September 2010.” Other new findings, based on TRAC’s analysis of government data:

  • Cases resulting in removal orders sped up a bit, shaving nine days off the 270-day wait time in October 2012, but remain more than two months behind the pace set in September 2012.
  • The average pace at which U.S. immigration courts issued relief orders picked up in November, but still is almost three months slower than last year, with wait times clocking in at over two years in November 2012.
  • On average, as of November, cases pending in U.S. immigration courts have been waiting 538 days for final resolution – nearly a year and a half – significantly more than the average wait time of 489 days in fiscal year 2011.

In the aggregate, TRAC says, “average wait times continue to inch up each month despite the small decline in the backlog.” The complete statistical breakdown is available on the TRAC WebSite.

For anyone who’s still in doubt – whether politician or private citizen – let there be no mistake: our immigration system is very much in need of repair, as TRAC’s court backlog statistics amply demonstrate. The numbers speak for themselves, and we hope the policymakers in Washington will heed their message as the immigration overhaul takes shape.


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