As FY 2010 Ends, Immigration Case Backlog Still Growing

Figure 1. Immigration Court Backlog
Click for larger image.

The number of cases awaiting resolution before the Immigration Courts reached a new all-time high of 261,083 by the end of September 2010, according to very timely government enforcement data obtained by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC). The case backlog has continued to grow — up 5.3 percent — since TRAC's last report three months ago, and more than a third higher (40%) than levels at the end of FY 2008 (see Figure 1).

Wait times declined slightly since our last report. The average time these pending cases have been waiting in the Immigration Courts of the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) is now 456 days, compared with 459 days at the end of June this year. Newly arriving cases, of course, have just joined the queue, so their wait times as yet are short, and this can bring down the average.

Full details — by state, nationality, Immigration Court and hearing locations — can be viewed in TRAC's backlog application, now updated with data through September 27th, 2010.

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

For comparisons with TRAC's earlier reports examining the volume of cases, wait times, and how these compare with the current number of Immigration Judges available to handle this growing caseload see August 2010, May 2010, March 2010, June 2009 and July 2008 reports.

Selected Highlights

Wait Times by State
Wait times continue to be longest in California with 630 days, down from 643 days three months ago. Massachusetts average wait times declined slightly from 620 days to 615 days over the same time period. Nebraska moved up to third place, with an average time of 519 days pending cases have been waiting in the Omaha Immigration Court — up from 514 days three months ago.

Wait Times by Nationality
Among nationalities, and limiting comparisons to the 50 countries with the most individuals in queue, Armenians with cases pending before the Immigration Courts currently had the longest wait times of 911 days — almost twice the national average of 456 days. Other nationalities within the top five in terms of the length their cases had been pending were Indonesia (797), Albania (686), Iran (596) and Pakistan (585).

Highest Growth Rates in Pending Cases
Among individual Immigration Courts, and considering only those with at least 1,000 pending cases, the court with the fastest buildup during FY 2010 was the Immigration Court in Harlingen, Texas, where pending cases jumped by 127 percent. The San Antonio court ranked second, with a growth spurt of 94 percent during this year. Las Vegas (up 82 percent), Chicago (up 62 percent), and El Paso (up 52 percent) made up the remaining top five locations experiencing the highest growth rates in case backlogs. Phoenix just missed out being included in these ranks with a growth rate of 50 percent.

Courts With Declining Case Backlogs
Some courts, however, saw a decline in their number of pending cases during FY 2010. Again considering only courts with at least 1,000 pending cases at the end of last year, the court with the sharpest decline was in Orlando, Florida. That court saw its backlog reduced by 16 percent. This was followed by the Guaynabo, Puerto Rico court where the pending caseload dropped by 13 percent during this fiscal year. Miami, Florida dropped by 11 percent, Atlanta, Georgia by 6 percent, and Oakdale, Lousiana by 5 percent.