Immigration Court Decision Times Lengthen

Figure 1. Immigration Court Overall Decision Times
Click for larger image.

During the first six months of FY 2011, decision times continued to climb in cases disposed of by the Immigration Courts, according to very timely government enforcement data obtained by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC). The increasingly long average wait reached 302 days — up 7.5 percent in the last six months, and almost 30 percent higher than the average disposition time during FY 2009 (see Figure 1).

Longest times were for those individuals granted relief from removal, where average times reached 714 days, up from 697 days during FY 2010. Shortest times were for removal orders which averaged 158 days, up from 141 days last year. These results are based upon TRAC's analysis of case-by-case records obtained from the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) under the Freedom of Information Act.

Full details — by state, nationality, Immigration Court and hearing locations — can be viewed using TRAC's court outcomes application, now updated with data through the end of March 2011.

Figure 2. TRAC's Immigration Court Outcomes Tool. (click to use the tool)

Lengthening decision times reflected the growing backlog of cases that continue to clog the Immigration Courts. See also TRAC's last backlog report as well as earlier TRAC outcomes report tracking decision times.

Selected Highlights

Decision Times by State
Decision times during the first six months of FY 2011 were on average longest in New York with 532 days, up from 506 days last year. This was followed closely by California and Oregon each with an average decision time of 531 days. California's current decision times remained similar to those experienced during FY 2010 (528 days). However, Oregon moved up in the rankings with its lengthening decision times that jumped from an average of 475 days during FY 2010 to 531 days so far this year. Massachusetts with 497 days and Maryland with 483 days came in fourth and fifth place, respectively.

If only decisions granting removal orders were considered, Oregon topped the list taking on average 521 days for removal orders, followed by Tennessee (433 days) and New York (395 days). Hawaii averaging 320 days came in fourth, followed by California with 316 days.

Decision Times by Nationality
Among nationalities, and limiting comparisons to the 50 countries with the most cases decided during the first half of FY 2011, Armenians currently had the longest decision times averaging 955 days - more than three times the national average of 302 days. Other nationalities within the top five for their overall average decision times were Indonesia (930 days), China (691 days), Bangladesh (685 days), and Mali (682 days).

The top 50 nationalities with the most cases that had the fastest average decision times were: Mexico (173 days), Honduras (217 days), Cuba (230 days), Canada (264 days), and Costa Rica (279 days).

Courts with Longest Decision Times.
During the first six months of FY 2011, the court with the longest overall decision time was Los Angeles, where cases averaged 745 days to decide. The New York court posted the second longest decision time of 646 days, followed by Philadelphia where cases averaged 600 days to decide. The Phoenix court was fourth (583 days) while the Portland court was fifth (531 days).

The same five courts had the longest average decision times for cases resulting in removal orders. However, their order was slightly different: New York (602 days), Los Angeles (532 days), Portland (521 days), Phoenix (464 days), and Philadelphia (440 days).

Courts With Shortest Decision Times.
Currently the courts with the fastest average decision time were Lumpkin, Georgia (21 days), Oakdale, Louisiana (32 days), Tucson, Arizona (37 days), Houston-Detained (44 days), and Florence, Arizona (48 days). These locations dealt with individuals who were detained.

The courts that had the fastest average time for granting relief also involved detained populations. During the first half of FY 2011, the speediest average times for relief orders were: Tacoma, Washington (134 days), Miami-Krome (140 days), Houston-Detained (162 days), Florence, Arizona (170 days), and Eloy, Arizona (180 days).