Mapping Where Immigrants Reside While Waiting For Their Immigration Court Hearing
Just under 100,000 cases were added to the Immigration Court's backlog since the beginning of FY 2020. A total of 1,122,824 cases are now pending on the court's active docket as of the end of February 2020. This is up from 542,411 cases when President Trump assumed office. When 320,173 inactive pending cases are included, the court's current backlog now tops 1.4 million cases.
With most non-detained court hearings canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, the backlog is slated to grow even higher, as TRAC found that it did as a result of the government shutdown in January 2019.
Access Breakthrough by TRAC
This report focuses on just where immigrants live who are waiting for their fate to be decided by an immigration judge. This analysis is possible because of a year-long and ultimately successful effort by TRAC to convince the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) to release the information needed to restore TRAC's reporting on where immigrants with Immigration Court cases live.
Profiling the Backlog: State-by-State and County-by-County
Each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico are home to residents with deportation cases currently pending before the Immigration Court. Forty-three (43) out of fifty states have at least 1,000 deportation cases currently pending before the court. Even within states, immigrants in removal proceedings reside in more counties than ever before. Altogether at least 2,733 counties have residents in removal proceedings. Of these, 686 counties have 100 or more such residents and 176 have 1,000 or more.
Figure 1. County Residents with Pending Immigration Court Cases
(Click for larger image)
Figure 1 maps the distribution of where individuals with deportation cases currently pending before the Immigration Court live. Relatively few counties in each state lack residents with cases waiting a judge's decision.
Table 1. Where Individuals With Pending Immigration Court Cases Reside
Table 1 summarizes how the distribution of cases has changed since President Trump assumed office. Between May 2017 (the earliest month available) and February 2020, there has been more than a fifty percent increase (59%) in counties with 1,000 or more residents in the court's active deportation backlog. Back in 2017, 111 counties in 39 states had this many pending cases. Today there are 43 states and a total of 176 counties with at least 1,000 or more residents currently waiting for their day in Immigration Court. See Table 1.
Los Angeles County in California tops the list with the most residents waiting their hearings - 63,847. This is followed by Harris County in Texas where Houston is located with 51,687. Queens County in New York City ranks third with 37,428 residents waiting for hearings. In fourth place is Miami-Dade County in Florida with 27,921, followed in fifth place by Kings County in New York City with 22,559.
Table 2 at the end of this report lists all 176 counties in the U.S. with a thousand or more residents with deportation cases currently in the Immigration Court's active backlog.
Tracking Immigration Court Cases by County of Immigrant's Residence
TRAC has just restored user's ability to examine the immigrant's residence in all deportation cases before the Immigrant Court. As noted above, this is possible after a year-long and ultimately successful effort by TRAC to convince the Executive Office for Immigration Review to release the information needed to restore TRAC's reporting on where immigrants with Immigration Court cases live.
TRAC's online tool is particularly powerful because users can drill in by county and state of residence and examine not only how many cases there are, when they began, and their outcome if closed, but such factors as how long immigrants have lived in the U.S., their nationality, custody status, hearing location, hearing attendance, and whether individuals were represented.
The free web query tool uses the most recent address in court records for each immigrant. When the individual is detained this is usually the address of the detention facility.
 This EOIR number is as of the end of October 23, 2019, and includes some pending BIA cases. These cases were previously administratively closed, but were ordered reopened by former Attorney General Sessions.
 In addition, court records indicate some 14,247 reside outside the U.S. but do not record where. For an additional 18,381 cases whether the individual resides in or outside the U.S. is not recorded in the records EOIR released to TRAC.
 Puerto Rico does not divide its territory into counties. Instead it has 78 municipalities or "municipios." The U.S. Census treats municipalities there as county equivalents.
 After TRAC received zip code data associated with removal hearings from the EOIR, TRAC then transformed zip code data into county-level estimates. TRAC finds that county-level estimates are more useful to our broad user base given the importance of county-level policy making, the availability of county-based Census data, and the observation that the county is a more easily understandable geographic unit for most people.
 EOIR's policy is to redact zip code data where there are less than four cases recorded for a given zip code. This requires a redaction algorithm which the EOIR is still perfecting to mark values it is withholding. Thus, because of these redactions, the data released to TRAC may not have recorded every county that contained one or more residents with cases currently pending before the court. Excluding those with foreign addresses, only 18,583 records out of the more than a million cases in the backlog did not show a valid zip code. Most of these were because the entry itself was invalid. That is, they contained a sequence of characters that did not correspond to a valid zip code, such as "00000" or "99999."
Table 2. Counties With At Least 1,000 Residents Currently Waiting For An Immigration Court Hearing*