Immigration Case Backlog Still Growing in FY 2011

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 267,752 by the end of December 2010, according to very timely government enforcement data obtained by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC). The case backlog has continued to grow — up 2.6 percent — since TRAC's last report three months ago, and more than a third higher (44%) than levels at the end of FY 2008 (see Figure 1).

Wait times increased 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 467 days, compared with 456 days at the end of September last year.

Full details — by state, nationality, Immigration Court and hearing locations — can be viewed in TRAC's backlog application, now updated with data through December 30th, 2010.

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

See also TRAC's last backlog report and listing of earlier TRAC report reports in this series beginning in 2008 examining the volume of cases, wait times, as well as the number of immigration judges available.

Selected Highlights

Wait Times by State
Wait times continue to be longest in California with 639 days, up from 630 days three months ago. Massachusetts average wait times remained at 615 days over the same time period. Nebraska stayed in third place, with an average time of 511 days pending cases have been waiting in the Omaha Immigration Court — down from 519 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 886 days — almost twice the national average of 467 days. Other nationalities within the top five in terms of the length their cases had been pending were Indonesia (823), Albania (672), Iran (611) and Pakistan (609).

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 2011 was the Immigration Court in Oakdale, Louisiana, where pending cases jumped by 25 percent. The Harlingen, Texas court ranked second, with a growth spurt of 14 percent during this year. San Antonio, Texas (up 11 percent), El Paso, Texas (up 9 percent), and New Orleans (up 9 percent as well) made up the remaining top five locations experiencing the highest growth rates in case backlogs. Portland, OR just missed out being included in these ranks with a growth rate of 8 percent.

Courts With Declining Case Backlogs
Some courts, however, saw a decline in their number of pending cases during the first three months of FY 2011. Again considering only courts with at least 1,000 pending cases, the court with the sharpest decline was in Lumpkin, Georgia. That court saw its backlog reduced by 57 percent. This was followed by the Guaynabo, Puerto Rico court where the pending caseload dropped by 11 percent during this fiscal year. Dallas, Texas dropped by 7 percent, Kansas City by 6 percent, and Miami, Florida by 5 percent.