About the Data

Findings are based upon a detailed analysis of millions of records covering each deportation pro­cee­ding initiated by the Department of Homeland Security and its predecessor agency, the Immigration and Na­tu­ra­li­za­ti­on Service, in the Immigration Courts. These individual case records were obtained through requests made by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University under the Freedom of Information Act to the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), a unit within the Department of Justice in which these administrative courts are housed.

These courts were established by Congress to conduct deportation proceedings and decide "whether foreign-born individuals, who are charged by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with violating immigration law, should be ordered removed from the United States." Legal terminology has changed over time when referring to deportation, and the terms "deportation" and "removal" are used in a generic sense - whether legally labeled as removal, deportation, or expulsion based upon inadmissibility grounds.

Using these data, the locations of individuals involved in Immigration Court cases are mapped based upon their recorded home address postal codes ("zipcodes") found in court records[1]. Where the individual is detained, the address shown may be that of the detention facility where the individual is being held[2].

Pending Cases and Representation

Both TRAC's backlog tool as well as the current mapping tool start with the number of cases awaiting resolution before the Immigration Court. The backlog tool tabulates cases for each Immigration Court and hearing location. Because each court covers a wide geographic area - sometimes encompassing several states -- only a very gross picture of the location where cases are situated is revealed.

The mapping tool, in contrast, uses the individualized location where each person appearing before the court currently resides. Users can therefore pinpoint with great precision just where cases are located throughout the country. Detailed statistics are separately available for tens of thousands of communities across the fifty states. Alternative views are available displaying results by state, by counties within a state, and by specific communities within each county. The U.S. Census Bureau refers to these subareas within counties as "county subdivisions".

In addition to the number of pending cases in the court's backlog, the mapping tool also tabulates the number of individuals in these cases that court records indicate are currently represented by an attorney. Note that the government is always represented by an attorney. This is not true for the immigrant. Unlike in criminal proceedings, the government is not required to provide legal counsel to those without the means to hire an attorney.

While many immigration lawyers and law clinics attempt to provide legal assistance on a pro bono basis, their numbers are insufficient to meet the need. Attorney availability may vary widely by location. Thus, individuals residing in different communities differ in their ability to find an available attorney.

Highlighting Recently Filed Cases

Because of the importance of obtaining representation at the crucial start of a case, the tool also displays representation rates for cases that have been filed within the past 90 days. The odds of representation at this point in time is generally lower than representation rates for all pending cases.

This is true for at least two reasons. First, it may take longer than 90 days to find an attorney. However, there is a second and even more important reason. Cases involving unrepresented individuals get decided much more quickly and drop out of the backlog. Without representation, more often than not, no one is available with the knowledge and skills required to effectively mount a defense.

As a result, as time goes on, the composition of the court backlog has a higher and higher proportion of those who are represented. This occurs because more and more of those who had not found an attorney are no longer part of the backlog since their cases have already been decided.

Using the Mapping Tool

The tool opens with a map of the fifty states. Moving the browser pointer to a state displays a pop-up window of how many Immigration Court cases are found in that particular state. The row corresponding to that state in the table below the map is also highlighted.

To see more detail, select a state by clicking on it. The display then zooms in to show how cases are distributed across the communities ("county subdivisions") within that state. The table below switches to display statistics for each of these communities. Buttons appear between the map and the table allowing the user to toggle between displays of individual communities versus counties. Standard controls are available allowing a user to zoom in so that small areas can more easily be discerned.

Controls are also available to manipulate the table display. Clicking on a column heading will sort the rows according to that factor. Clicking a second time, reverses the order of the sort. Scroll bars at the right of the table allow users to move up or down the rows displayed in the table.

[1] Postal codes are used by the U.S. Postal Service to define postal delivery routes rather than distinct geographic areas. TRAC translated these zip codes into the corresponding state, county, and county subdivision displayed on these maps using methods and mapping boundaries developed by the U.S. Census Bureau. Where zipcodes cross county subdivision lines, TRAC used census figures on the proportion of the U.S. population falling into each county subdivision to distribute court cases to specific county subdivisions. The numbers shown are based upon these results rounded to the nearest integer. The "odds of representation" are based upon the ratio of the estimates for those represented divided by the total pending cases for each geographic area shown. In these "odds" calculations, estimates before rounding were used for greater accuracy.

[2] A very small proportion (~1%) of court records do not contain valid postal code information. Locations could not be determined for these individuals, and thus they are not included in any of the statistics shown.


Additional TRAC Immigration Enforcement Data and Tools

For a listing of TRAC reports on other immigration enforcement topics, go here.

To access additional data using other TRAC immigration enforcement tools, go to this directory of data tools.