EOIR Response to
TRAC's Findings

Prior to publication, TRAC furnished its proposed findings to the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) to provide the agency with an opportunity to furnish suggestions and corrections.

In addition, during the course of these investigations, TRAC submitted written questions to the EOIR for a response concerning their progress in implementing each of the Attorney General's 22 improvements. Using the Freedom of Information Act, TRAC also sought and received internal records on each of the proceedings conducted by the Immigration Courts. Updated shipments of data were periodically received, the latest covering activity through June 13, 2008 which included information on 4.5 million Immigration Court records and over 650 thousand records of proceedings before the Board of Immigration Appeals.

TRAC is very appreciative of the assistance the EOIR has provided throughout the course of its investigations.

In its written response to TRAC's proposed findings, the EOIR concurred in the central findings that:

As to the question of the adequacy of resources to handle the current workload of the Immigration Courts, the EOIR emphasized its current efforts at hiring more Immigration Judges and stated: "We feel comfortable that we will be able to deal with any increased caseload with the resources we receive." The EOIR did not dispute TRAC's finding that the "Justice Department has not assessed in any systematic fashion what level of staffing is needed to be considered 'adequate.'"

However, agreeing with the central findings, the EOIR reported slightly different numbers of Immigration Judges at various points in time based upon its internal administrative records than those TRAC reports. While these differences are not material to the substance of the findings of this report, we include here the number of Immigration Judges the EOIR reported were employed at the end of each fiscal year based on their records:

Number of Immigration Judges
Total "ACIJs" "Field IJs"
1998 219 10 209
2003 229 12 217
2006 234 6228
2007 220 5 215
current 226 6 220
vs 2006

As shown in the above table, the EOIR reports that both the total number of Immigration Judges and what the EOIR terms "Field IJs" declined by 8 judges between FY 2006 and July 2008. TRAC's figures in the table accompanying Figure 1 for total Immigration Judges, based upon OPM official records, show a decline of only 4 Immigration Judges between 2006 and now. We also report a decline of 8 in the number of sitting Immigration Judges assigned to field Immigration Courts.

TRAC used OPM data for the counts it reported. This choice was made because OPM is responsible for maintaining the official numbers on federal civilian employment and that agency carries out many reliability and validity checks to ensure the accuracy and completeness of their records (see About the Data).

The EOIR does not include all current Assistant Chief Immigration Judges ACIJs in its figures for the number of "ACIJs." There are currently 11 ACIJs, plus the Chief Immigration Judge. Currently, supervision of the more than 50 Immigration Courts is divided among ten of these ACIJSs, with each ACIJ assigned to supervise a separate group of courts. The eleventh is assigned other administrative duties. The EOIR included only five ACIJs plus the Chief Immigration Judge in its count of current ACIJs.

Formerly all ACIJs were based at the EOIR headquarters. But during FY 2007, as part of the implementation of the AG's improvement plan, six ACIJs were placed in the field at one of the courts they supervised. The EOIR included these six under their count of "Field IJs." The EOIR stated: "ACIJs in the field hear cases and are counted as IJs."1 As a result of this, the EOIR's total counts for administrative IJs declines from FY 2006 - 2008, while TRAC's numbers do not.

TRAC based its counts for administrative judges on whether they handled a regular caseload or spent their time primarily on administrative duties. TRAC used an actual examination of EOIR case-by-case records on judge case assignments rather than simply on whether the person was located at the EOIR headquarters or out in the field. For further details see About the Data.

1EOIR records indicate that ACIJs based at Headquarters also have heard occasional cases. This has been true even prior to the transfer of some ACIJs to the field. However, in prior years the EOIR appears to count all ACIJs based at its headquarters as administrative judges (ACIJs) in its counts.