About the Data

Overview. The data accessible through the Juveniles — Immigration Court Deportation Proceedings data tool, as well as information contained in TRAC reports based on that data, were obtained from the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) using the Freedom of Information Act. The data are comprised of individual case records from the federal Immigration Courts, which are administrative courts that, like EOIR itself, are part of the Department of Justice. The names of the children, as well as any other personal identifiers, are removed from the records before the information is released to TRAC. The data were extracted by EOIR from its CASE database system, which tracks the workloads of the Immigration Courts. Findings reported are based on TRAC's detailed analysis of these case-by-case Immigration Court records.

Coverage. The EOIR data are comprised of the case-by-case records of every identified Immigration Court juvenile case from the start of FY 2005 (October 1, 2004) through the most recent date available, which is recorded at the top of the data tool and updated regularly. Up until FY 2018, juveniles are defined by the court as children who at the time their case begins are under the age of 18 and arrived unaccompanied. Due to a change in how juvenile cases are tracked in EOIR's database, after FY 2018 all juveniles are included since it is no longer possible to reliably distinguish between children who arrive unaccompanied and those who arrive as part of a family unit.

Not counted in the data. Where DHS is seeking to remove the parent and child together, the case would not be included in our analysis. Also not included are children who are immediately deported by DHS without an Immigration Court hearing. For instance, DHS has authority to screen and then immediately deport unaccompanied Mexican children without any formal hearing, so only a small proportion of children from Mexico are referred to the Immigration Courts by the DHS. As such, these children are not counted in the EOIR data.

Using the Data Tool: Dimensions and Definitions

Filtering the data using the three data columns. The data filter from left to right, so that as you select a dimension in the left table, it will then show you the sub-categories of data within that particular selection in the tables to the right. In other words, if you click on a category in the left table to display only cases within that class in the middle table and in the time series graph. Click on a category in the middle table to display only cases within that class in the right table and in the time series graph.

Number/percent toggle. By default, the number of cases is displayed in the graph. To instead display the value as a percent of the total for your current selection, choose the "Percent" option to the right of the graph. (Note: 100 percent will be displayed if the total ("All") was the category you have currently selected.) Mouse-over any bar in the graph to view the value being plotted for that fiscal year.

Data dimensions. To change the set of categories displayed in a table, select a different factor from the pull-down menu above that table. The following factors can be selected:

Initial Filing versus Current Status. Juvenile court cases are frequently transferred between court locations. Select the measure "Initial Filing" to see the court location where the juvenile case was originally filed and what happened in the proceeding taking place at that location. If the case was transferred to a different court location, the outcome shown will be "Case Transferred." Whether the child was represented, his or her custody status, and the outcome are always specific to the proceeding in that initial location.

To find out the court's decision to date for all juvenile cases or whether the case is still pending, select "Current Status." When a case has transferred one or more times between court locations, this selection will give you the proceeding at the last location. For cases that have been closed, it will give you the Immigration Judge's decision in the case indicating whether the child was ordered deported or allowed to remain in the country. As before, whether the child was represented, his or her custody status, and the outcome are specific to this last proceeding. (If the case was never transferred, the last location is the same as the initial location.)

Additional Notes on the Data

Date of apprehension vs. date of court record. There can be some delay between the time an unaccompanied child is picked up at the border attempting to enter the country without valid papers, and when the case appears in the Court's database. For example, the charging document filed by DHS needs to specify the legal reasons — the specific statutory charges — why the child has violated the immigration laws and removal is warranted. Given limits in available staff, when a surge in cases occurs some time may be required for DHS officials to prepare all the filings and then for court staff to process these filings and update their database once the formal paperwork is received.

It should be noted that immediate filings don't necessarily speed the actual processing of juvenile cases, and can indeed be counter-productive. This is because the formal filing needs to be in the specific Immigration Court where the juvenile is located. There are now 59 separate Immigration Courts located in different parts of the country. If after a court filing the child's location changes — whether because of a change in where he or she is being detained or because the child is released to relatives who reside in a different part of the country — the proceeding in the original court generally has to be closed, the case transferred to the specific Immigration Court where the child is now located, and a new proceeding opened there. Because moves in a child's location are more likely to occur in the first 30 or 60 days, it can actually speed the processing of a case if the filing doesn't take place immediately.

Special cautionary note: A significant number of unaccompanied children who are apprehended at the border have a parent already residing in the United States. If at some point, even after court proceedings begin, a parent or court-ordered legal guardian assumes custody of the child, then procedures call for the EOIR's database to be updated to indicate this change in custody. This change is recorded by updating the particular juvenile case type. For court purposes, only children who are not currently in the custody of a parent or legal guardian retain the tag of "unaccompanied juvenile." When used in this court data, this tag always indicates the present status of the child, and not the original situation. Anyone interested in following what happened to unaccompanied juveniles picked up at the border will need to examine all juvenile court cases and ignore the court's "unaccompanied juvenile" category. Unaccompanied children are occasionally picked up by DHS in the interior of the country rather than on the border and the court files should also include these cases in a similar manner.

Additional TRAC Immigration Enforcement Data and Tools

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