Civil Immigration Filings Trending Downward

Number Latest Month 131
Percent Change from previous month -13.2%
Percent Change from 1 year ago -1.4%
Percent Change from 5 years ago -13.3%

Table 1. Civil Immigration Filings

The latest available data from the federal courts show that during January 2015 the government reported 131 new civil filings that were classified by nature of suit as immigration matters. According to the case-by-case information analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), this number is down 13.2 percent over the previous month when the number of civil filings of this type totaled 151.

The comparisons of the number of civil immigration filings are based on case-by-case court records which were compiled and analyzed by TRAC (see Table 1).

Various federal statutes are invoked in lawsuits concerning immigration matters. Among the most commonly cited in January 2015 were 28 USC 2241 Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (24.4%), 28 USC 1361 Petition for Writ of Mandamus (16.8%), 8 USC 1329 Writ of Mandamus to Adjudicate Visa Petition (14.5%) and 8 USC 1446 Petition for Naturalization Hearing (10.7%).

When monthly 2015 civil immigration filings are compared with those of the same period in the previous year, their number is only slightly down (-1.4%). Civil immigration filings for January 2015 are lower than they were for the same period five years ago. Overall, the data show that civil filings of this type are down 13.3 percent from levels reported in January 2010.

Bar and line plot of fymon

Figure 1. Civil Immigration Filings over the Last Five Years

The long term trend in civil immigration filings going back five years is shown more clearly in Figure 1. The vertical bars in Figure 1 represent the number of civil filings of this type recorded each month. The superimposed line on the bars plots the six-month moving average so that natural fluctuations are smoothed out. One-year and five-year change comparisons are based upon the moving averages.

Specific Nature of Suit

Court filings are also classified based upon the specific nature of the suit. Table 2 shows the top nature of suit categories recorded in the matters filed during January 2015.

Nature of Suit Count Rank
Other Immigration Actions 64 1
Habeas Corpus - Alien Detainee 32 2
Naturalization Application 29 3
Deportation 6 4

Table 2. Civil Immigration Filings
by Nature of Suit

"Other Immigration Actions" was the most frequently recorded nature of suit. Ranked second in frequency was the nature of suit category "Habeas Corpus - Alien Detainee." This category exhibited the sharpest decline, down 31.9 percent from the level seen one and five years ago. Ranked third was "Naturalization Application." This was also the fastest growing category, rising 81.3 percent compared with one year ago and up 50 percent from five years ago.

Top Ranked Judicial Districts

Judicial District Count Rank 1yr ago 5yrs ago
Cal, C 16 1 1 10
Ill, N 11 2 2 18
N. Y., E 10 3 3 4
Texas, S 8 4 8 1
N. Y., S 7 5 8 5
Ala, N 6 6 16 -
Penn, E 6 6 20 20
Arizona 5 8 26 10
Ga, M 4 9 8 -
Wash, W 4 9 16 10

Table 3. Top Ten Districts

Understandably, there is great variation in the number of civil filings in each of the nation's ninety-four federal judicial districts.

The Central District of California — with 16 civil filings — was the most active through January 2015. This district was ranked first a year ago, while five years ago it was ranked tenth.

The Northern District of Illinois ranked second. It was also ranked second a year ago, but was only ranked 18th five years ago.

The Eastern District of New York now ranks third. This district was also ranked third a year ago, while five years ago it was ranked fourth.

Each month, TRAC offers a free report focused on one area of civil litigation in the U.S. district courts. In addition, subscribers to the TRACFed data service can generate custom reports by district, office, nature of suit or federal jurisdiction via the TRAC Data Interpreter.