Representation Makes Fourteen-Fold Difference in Outcome: Immigration Court "Women with Children" Cases

The latest data tracking the processing of "women with children" cases by the Immigration Court's new priority docketing system provide updated details on how these cases are proceeding. As of the end of June 2015, a total of 44,948 removal proceedings involving women with children had been flagged by the courts for priority scheduling. All of these women and children had already passed their initial "credible fear" screening and had been placed in formal removal proceedings.

A third of these cases (14,269 or 32 percent) were closed as of the end of June. The remaining 30,679 cases were still pending. This report is based upon an analysis of these case-by-case court records by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University. Data for the analysis were obtained by TRAC from the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

This report updates earlier figures reported by TRAC on outcomes in these cases, and the centrality that representation plays.

This report is also accompanied by an interactive data application that allows users to delve more deeply into the data.

Outcomes in Closed Cases

Results continue to show that the single most important factor in determining outcome is whether or not these individuals are represented in their court proceedings. For cases concluded thus far, the odds of being allowed to remain in this country were increased more than fourteen-fold if women and children had representation. See Figure 1.

As shown in Table 1, of the 12,266 Immigration Court cases that have been closed without representation as of June 2015, only 2.3 percent were allowed to remain in the country while in 97.7 percent of the cases, the immigration judge issued a deportation order. In contrast, for the 2,003 closed cases having representation, one third (32.9%) were allowed to remain in the country and two thirds (67.1%) received a deportation order.

Unlike unaccompanied juvenile cases from Central America, children who arrive with their mothers are not automatically entitled to a full hearing before an Immigration Judge to decide if they have a legal right to remain in the country. Children arriving with their mothers face expedited removal, typically in a matter of days, unless the family first can demonstrate "credible fear" of persecution or torture if returned to their own country. Analysis here of the current court data follows cases once they have passed this initial "credible fear" screening and have been placed in formal removal proceedings in Immigration Court. Counts are based upon individuals - that is each child and mother - in these proceedings.

Figure 1. Effect of Representation on Deportation

Table 1. Outcome by Representation in "Women with Children" Cases
Outcome Not Represented Represented
Number Percent Number Percent
Total Closed Cases* 12,266 100.0% 2,003 100.0%
Ordered Deported
Removal Order 11,713 97.7% 1,201 67.1%
Voluntary Departure 275 144
Allowed to Stay
Grant Relief 23 2.3% 303 32.9%
Other Closure 156 183
Terminate Proceedings 90 131
Pros. Discretion 9 41
* As of the end of June 2015.

Representation by Immigration Court

In cases that have thus far been closed, women and children were represented by an attorney only 14.0 percent of the time. In contrast, individuals were represented 45.9 percent of the time in those cases that are currently pending.

It is to be expected that Immigration Court proceedings where women and children have no representation are likely to reach closure more quickly, and as a consequence make up a larger component of the cases concluded thus far. It is difficult for someone who is not represented, and often does not speak English, to mount a real defense. As a result there is less for a judge to consider and it therefore typically takes less time to reach a decision in the case.

Turning the focus to cases that are still pending and representation rates are higher, the court data show that the availability of representation still varies sharply by Immigration Court. As reported in Table 2, for courts having at least 100 pending cases as of the end of June 2015, representation rates varied from a high of 72.2 percent in the Boston Immigration Court to a low of only 26.7 percent in the Harlingen Immigration Court. Other courts with at least 100 pending cases where one third or fewer had representation included Charlotte (27.0%), Memphis (31.7%), Portland (31.7%), Dallas (33.0%), and Arlington (33.2%).

Table 2. Representation in Pending "Women with Children" Cases by Immigration Court
Immigration Court* Total Individuals with Representation
Number Percent Rank
All 30,679 14,069 45.9%  
Boston 623 450 72.2% 1
Hartford 182 130 71.4% 2
Orlando 793 540 68.1% 3
Cleveland 406 268 66.0% 4
Bloomington 172 111 64.5% 5
Omaha 492 307 62.4% 6
West Valley 138 85 61.6% 7
New York 2,122 1,221 57.5% 8
Newark 846 460 54.4% 9
San Francisco 4,154 2,192 52.8% 10
Denver 375 181 48.3% 11
Miami 3,060 1,476 48.2% 12
San Antonio 911 437 48.0% 13
Philadelphia 359 168 46.8% 14
Detroit 156 69 44.2% 15
Los Angeles 2,302 1,018 44.2% 15
Las Vegas 199 86 43.2% 17
Houston 2,705 1,142 42.2% 18
Chicago 1,197 481 40.2% 19
Seattle 1,141 446 39.1% 20
Baltimore 1,689 645 38.2% 21
Kansas City 527 190 36.1% 22
Phoenix 160 57 35.6% 23
Atlanta 518 181 34.9% 24
New Orleans 308 107 34.7% 25
Arlington 770 256 33.2% 26
Dallas 1,003 331 33.0% 27
Portland 669 212 31.7% 28
Memphis 1,159 367 31.7% 28
Charlotte 1,324 358 27.0% 30
Harlingen 101 27 26.7% 31
* Status as of the end of June 2015.