About the Data

Overview. This tool provides details about each deportation case initiated in Immigration Court by the Department of Homeland Security, as well as any cases initiated by its predecessor, the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The US immigration court system conducts deportation proceedings which are intended to 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." Except where noted, TRAC uses the term “deportation” in its general sense to cover both pre-1996 “deportation” cases and post-1996 “removal” cases.

Coverage. The Immigration Court is part of the U.S. Department of Justice within the executive branch of government; it is not under the judicial branch of the federal government. Although criminal charges and convictions may play a role in determining an individual’s ability to stay in the United States, immigration proceedings are civil, not criminal. In hearings before Immigration Court, the government is represented by a government attorney that works for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), an agency within the Department of Homeland Security. Because immigration hearings are not part of the criminal courts, individuals facing deportation do not have a right to a court-appointed attorney if they cannot afford to pay for one themselves. This is true even if the underlying basis for DHS seeking a deportation order involves criminal charges or convictions. Unaccompanied children of young ages also are not provided with legal representation when they are unable to obtain an attorney on their own and thus are required to represent themselves in Court proceedings.

Not all deportation matters go through the immigration court system. Immigration Courts handle only those cases that require a deportation order from an Immigration Judge before DHS can deport someone. Congress has also authorized the Department of Homeland Security to deport individuals without an order from an immigration judge, including cases where the person already has a previous deportation order or if the person was arrested recently near the US border.

The vast majority of the cases handled by Immigration Courts are deportation cases. However, the Courts also handle other types of special proceedings where the outcome is not deportation. By default, the data shown in this tool are limited to deportation (i.e. removal) cases. Examples of these special case types include credible fear review, reasonable fear review, asylum only, and withholding only cases. To view data for all case types, select the radio button for “All Cases.”

Data Source. The data accessible through the data tool are based upon TRAC’s analyses of case-by-case 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.

By default, the data in this tool are organized by the issue date listed on the Notice to Appear (NTA). A Notice to Appear is a charging document issued by DHS and filed in Immigration Court to begin the deportation process. Note that there are three dates of interest associated with each NTA: (1) the date an NTA is issued, (2) the date that an NTA is physically filed in court, and (3) the date that the NTA is entered into the Immigration Court’s database. Often there is a delay between when the NTA is issued and when DHS files the NTA in Immigration Court, and a delay between when an NTA is filed in court and when it is entered into the court’s database. “Fiscal Year Case First Arrives” can be selected to tabulate when the NTA is added to the Court’s database. TRAC relies upon court records for this tool 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, not the courts, to carry out that order. 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 tool is based upon court records, statistics on recent monthly filings will lag behind the actual number of NTAs that DHS may have 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. Using the date of the NTA is the only approach that allows a clear demarcation between those actions initiated under each presidential administration. It also reflects when the matter begins for the immigrant involved. New revisions to this tool now allow users to also tabulate by when the case “arrives” in so far as it is added to the Court’s database. This provides a way of tracking cases when they become part of the Court’s workload. Note, however, that if DHS never files the NTA with the Court, it will not show up in these Court data.

Geographic Location. There are multiple indicators of geographic location available through this app. First, court data show 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]. When 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. For a number of cases, the immigrant's address was unavailable. This occurred more often with older court records. EOIR also redacts any zip code where there are fewer than 4 cases in its database at that location.

Charge Categories. Under a range of provisions of the law, rather broad grounds are given for deportation on either national security or terrorism grounds. To be deported for terrorism, for example, it is sufficient if "a consular officer or the Attorney General knows, or has reasonable ground to believe" that the individual "is likely to engage after entry [in the United States] in any terrorist activity."

In addition, a noncitizen is deportable if they have committed certain criminal acts. A conviction is not always necessary. Under certain sections of immigration law, for example, it is only required that the officer "know [...] or have reason to believe" that the individual has engaged in an illegal criminal activity."

Noncitizens also are deportable if they have violated US immigration law. This includes entering the country illegally, entered legally but overstaying the time limits of a visas, or violating other procedural requirements.

Finally, although relatively rarely invoked, there are a number of so-called miscellaneous or other provisions in the law. These include "failure to meet labor certification requirements," having a "communicable disease of public health significance," and being "likely to become a public charge."

Based upon the records of the Immigration Courts, TRAC classified each of these removal proceedings on the basis of the particular charges that the government brought. Since each individual could face multiple charges, individuals were classified into categories according to their most serious deportable charge. Classification is based upon charges filed and does not require that the charges ultimately be sustained.

In accordance with the DHS's announced priorities, in descending order of seriousness, these categories are as follows, from most to least serious: terrorism, national security, criminal-aggravated felon, other criminal, other, and immigration only. Immigration is further subdivided with entry without inspection listed when no other immigration charge was present.

This table lists each of the actual statutory provisions the government used as the basis for seeking a deportation order during the post-9/11 period (FY 2002 - FY 2011), along with the frequency with which each was relied upon. Because the government may file multiple charges to support a single deportation request, the table reflects the frequency with which each charge was used, not the number of individuals charged. To read the full text of these provisions, see 8 USC 1182 and 8 USC 1227.

Using the Data Tools: 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 pie chart or 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 pie chart and time series graph.

Selecting the graphical display. The tool displays a pie chart initially. You can switch to a time series bar chart. 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 radio buttons to the left of the graph.

Displaying values for a particular bar or pie chart slice in a graph. Mousing over an individual bar in the time series graph or over a pie chart slice (or its label) produces a pop-up window where the particular statistical value(s) are displayed.

Number/percent toggle. By default, the number of cases is displayed in the time series graphs. 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.)

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 NTA Dated. 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 received or decided the case. For when the court received the case, see “Fiscal Year Case First Arrives” below. The federal government’s fiscal year runs from October 1 to September 30.

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

  • Fiscal Year Case First Arrives. TRAC compares EOIR’s releases to determine when a NTA first appears in the Court’s database and hence enters the Court’s workload. This series started in FY 2012 so that year shows all NTAs filed during FY 2012 as well as in previous years.

  • Charge on NTA. This is the charge category (see section above describing how TRAC assigns categories) that DHS cites on the NTA as the basis for seeking a deportation order.

  • 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.

  • 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." Sometimes Courts which handle, for example, only detained or only juveniles have been become administratively separate, although located in the same city. Street addresses for all Courts are found here.

  • 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. Street addresses for hearing locations are found here.

  • 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.

  • Language. The language recorded as spoken by the individual.

  • Age Group. The individual's age at the time the Notice to Appeal (NTA) initiating Immigration Court proceedings was issued. This is calculated by TRAC based on the date of birth (where this was recorded by EOIR) and the date on the NTA. Birthdate is not always present in EOIR records and was usually missing until fairly recently.

  • Gender. Whether the individual was recorded as a "male" or "female." Gender is not always present in EOIR records and was usually missing until fairly recently.

  • 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.

  • Hearing Attendance. Whether immigrants attended all scheduled hearings versus had failed to appear at the last hearing and an "absentia order" in their absence had been entered by the judge. Removal orders that are issued in absentia order individuals deported since they didn't appear and contest the government's deportation request. Given many problems in court records and in the system for notifying immigrants of the place and time of their hearings, lack of attendance may mean that the immigrant missed their hearing for administrative reasons (e.g. hearing notice was sent to the wrong address) or for unavoidable personal reasons (e.g. medical emergency) that do not indicate an intent to abscond. (See, "Most Released Families Attend Immigration Court Hearingsi.") Usually multiple hearings are required before a decision is reached.

  • Outcome in Deportation Cases. 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 for deportation cases 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. Cases in which an Immigration Court Judge sustains the charges against the individual but permits for voluntary departure. Voluntary departure is when the individual is required to leave the country but is not automatically 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 may be allowed to remain in the United States if they are in the United States when the termination occurs.

    • 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 the 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.

  • Outcome in Special Types of Cases. This records the decision or basis for the Immigration Judge closing the case for common special case types, and will indicate if the case is still pending. For example, for credible fear and reasonable fear cases, the outcome will indicate whether credible or reasonable fear was found, not found, or some other type of closure occurred. For special case types seeking relief (asylum only, withholding only, NACARA), the outcome will indicate whether that relief was granted, not granted, or other type of closure occurred.

Footnotes

[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.