About the Data

Overview. This tool provides details about each deportation case initiated in Immigration Court by the Department of Homeland Security, and its predecessor the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Our immigration court system was established by Congress to conduct deportation proceedings and decide "whether foreign-born individuals, who are charged by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with violating immigration law, should be ordered removed from the United States."

Coverage. Tbe Immigration Court is part of the U.S. Justice Department and is part of the executive rather than the judicial branch of the federal government. As an administrative body, judges in the Immigration Court do not handle criminal cases. While the government is represented by a taxpayer-paid government attorney, because these are not considered criminal matters, individuals do not have any clear right to a court-appointed attorney if they cannot afford to pay for one themselves. This is true even though a basis for DHS seeking a deportation order may be because the individual had previously been convicted of particular types of crimes in a criminal court.

Not all deportation matters go through the immigration court system. Immigration Courts handle only those cases that require a court order before DHS can deport an individual. For many individuals, DHS is authorized by Congress to administratively deport an individual and bypass the Immigration Courts.

While the vast majority of cases handled by Immigration Courts are deportation cases, the court also handles other types of special proceedings. However, this particular tool is limited to those court cases involving deportation - also referred to as -- removal proceedings.

Data Source. The data accessible through the data tool are based upon analyses by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University of court records obtained from the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) using the Freedom of Information Act. EOIR is the administrative body that supervises the operation of the Immigration Court system. The names of the individuals, as well as any other personal identifiers, are removed from the records before the information is released to TRAC.

The data are organized by the date on the DHS-issued "Notice to Appear " (NTA) - the charging document issued by DHS to persons who face removal. Often there is a delay between when the NTA is issued, and when DHS actually files the NTA in Immigration Court. TRAC has relied upon court records for this app because DHS has refused to provide case-by-case details on each NTA it has issued.

Once a judge issues a deportation order it is the responsibility of DHS to carry out that order and therefore court records end where a final deportation order has been entered. Thus the outcome of a court case is a ruling by an immigration judge; the data do not track when or whether the individual was actually deported following this ruling.

Because the information in this app is based upon court records, statistics on recent monthly filings will lag behind the actual number of NTAs that have been issued. For example, because of the lag between when DHS issued an NTA and it filed the charging document in court, for many months after President Trump assumed office the majority of filings in Immigration Court were NTAs that had actually been issued when President Obama was still in office. Basing this tool upon the date of the NTA avoids this problem and is the only approach that allows a clear demarcation between those actions initiated under each presidential administration.

Geographic Location. There are multiple indicators of geographic location available through this app. The first, is the state in which the headquarters ("base city") of the Immigration Court handling the case is located. More recent additions ("Immigrant State" and "Immigrant County") use the immigrant's address recorded in the court's records. TRAC has converted the recorded zip code in the address to the corresponding state and county of the immigrant's residence[1]. Where the individual is currently detained, the address normally corresponds with the detention facility address.

Note that if the immigrant moves while Immigration Court proceedings are ongoing, available court records only show the last reported address. Thus, historical statistics as well as "initial status" addresses as compared with "current status" measures could be based upon a later address for that immigrant and not the one at the time of that particular stage in the court's proceedings. Note that for a number of cases the immigrant's address was unavailable. This occurred more often with older court records.

Using the Data Tool: Controlling Table and Graph Displays

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, 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.)

Choosing the time scale for the graph. You can select whether you want the bars in the time series graph to represent the month or the year that the case was initiated using the radial buttons to the left of the graph.

Displaying values for a particular bar in a graph. Mousing over an individual bar in the time series graph produces a pop-up window where the particular statistical value is displayed.

Selecting the initial court filing versus the latest proceeding in a case. The default selection shows the current status of each proceeding. If you want to examine what happened in the initial filing, select "Initial Filing" using the radial button to the left of the graph. (For additional information see "Further Notes" below.)

Using the Data Tool: Controlling Which Factor Is Displayed

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:

  • Fiscal Year Case Began. The fiscal year of the NTA's date. This is always based upon the fiscal year in which the DHS initiated the deportation action, not when the court decided the case.

  • The federal government's fiscal year runs from October 1 to September 30. So, for example, FY 2013 will return cases filed from October 1, 2012 through September 30, 2013.

  • Month and Year Case Began. The month and year of the NTA's date.

  • Immigration Court State. The state or territory where the Immigration Court assigned administrative responsibility for the case is located. Note that the actual hearing location may be in a different state, since some courts handle proceedings in more than one state. See detailed list of hearing locations in states that differ from the state the Immigration Court itself is based.

  • Immigration Court. There are Immigration Courts located in different parts of the country assigned the administrative responsibility for handling proceedings in their geographic district. Courts are usually referred to by the city or place where they are located - what EOIR refers to as their "base city."

  • Hearing Location. Each Immigration Court usually has more than one geographic location in which judges hold hearings. Sometimes videoconferencing is used so that the individual and judge are not in the same location. Normally a hearing location is administered by a single Immigration Court.

  • Immigrant State. The state where the immigrant resides based upon the last recorded address (zip code) in the court's records. Where the individual is currently detained, this may be the state where the detention facility is located.

  • Immigrant County. The county where the immigrant resides based upon the last recorded address (zip code) in the court's records. Where the individual is currently detained, this may be the county where the detention facility is located

  • Nationality. The recorded nationality of the individual.

  • Represented. Whether the individual did ("Represented") or did not ("Not Represented") have an attorney to help present the individual's case.

  • Custody. Whether the individual is detained, was detained but released from custody, or was never detained since court proceedings began.

  • How Long in the U.S. Displays how many years prior to the initiation of the case that court records indicate that the individual had been residing in the U.S.

  • Absentia. Whether the individual was absent at the hearing in which a decision was reached by the Immigration Judge.

  • Outcome. This records the decision or basis for the Immigration Judge closing the case, and will also indicate if the case is still pending. The following decision outcomes are available:

    • Removal Orders. Cases in which an Immigration Court Judge sustains the charges against the individual and issues a removal order. The term "removal" is used in a generic sense and includes orders of deportation, exclusion, etc. A removal order bars the individual from returning to the U.S. for a period of years, or in some cases permanently.

    • Voluntary Departure Orders. Cases in which an Immigration Court Judge sustains the charges against the individual and issues an order of voluntary departure. A so-called "voluntary departure" is when the individual is required to leave the country but is not legally barred from returning.

    • Terminate Proceedings. Cases in which an Immigration Court Judge finds the Department of Homeland Security has not established that the individual is legally removable. These individuals are allowed to remain in the U.S.

    • Relief Granted. Cases in which an Immigration Court Judge finds the original charges filed by DHS as the grounds for removal are sustained, but finds provisions in the immigration law entitle the individual to "relief" from removal (for example, asylum is granted), allowing the individual to remain in this country.

    • Prosecutorial Discretion. The case is closed because the government attorney prosecuting the individual's case exercises prosecutorial discretion and drops the request for a removal order. (Only available for cases closed since FY 2012.) These individuals are allowed to remain in the US.

    • Other Closure. Cases in which an Immigration Court Judge decides not to deport the individual for other unspecified reasons, or closes the case administratively. This category also includes closures in which the individual is given a temporary protected status.

    • Transferred. The proceeding in a court at a particular location is closed so that the case can be transferred to a different location, sometimes referred to as a change in venue.

    Further Notes: Initial Filing versus Current Status. Immigration court cases are frequently transferred between court locations. Select the measure "Initial Filing" to see the court location where the 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 individual 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 cases or on 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 person was ordered deported or allowed to remain in the country. As before, whether the person 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.)


    [1] Totals may differ slightly for dimensions involving immigrant addresses because of rounding error. Rounding error is introduced because the process of assigning county and state for zip codes that cross county or state boundaries utilize probabilities with fractional values.

    Additional TRAC Immigration Enforcement Data and Tools

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