Home > Immigration > Reports

200,000 Immigration Court Cases Dismissed Because DHS Failed to File Paperwork

Published Mar 20, 2024

Approximately 200,000 deportation cases have been thrown out by Immigration Judges since the start of the Biden administration because the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) hadn’t filed the required Notice to Appear (NTA) with the Court by the time of the scheduled hearing. Without a proper filing, the Court lacks jurisdiction to hear the case and the immigrants, often asylum seekers, lack a way to move their case forward.

These large numbers of dismissals and what then happens raise serious concerns. This report brings DHS’s record up to date through February 2024 with the latest available data. It first examines whether the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been improving its performance so far during the current fiscal year. Next, using Court records that had not previously been released, it then traces whether DHS officials issue and file new NTAs for these same individuals to rectify their original filing failures.

Dismissals Because No NTA Filed

DHS’s duty to file NTAs in Immigration Court is an essential step in the immigration enforcement process. Removal cases are initiated when the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issues a Notice to Appear (NTA) to a noncitizen, including asylum seekers, and then files that NTA in Immigration Court. The NTA alleges that the agency has reason to believe that the individual can and should be deported, lists these reasons, and asks an Immigration Judge to issue a removal order. While Immigration Judges handle a variety of case types, not all of which require an NTA, removal cases account for the vast majority of cases. Fully 97 percent of the over 1 million Court cases already initiated this fiscal year (October 2023 – February 2024) have been removal cases.[1] Thus, almost all Immigration Court cases are removal cases for which DHS must file an NTA for the case to go forward.

For the Immigration Judge to have jurisdiction to hear the case, DHS must file the NTA with the Court. Ten years ago, DHS’s failure to file an NTA before the scheduled first hearing was rare.[2] However, the frequency increased once Border Patrol agents and other DHS personnel were given access to the Immigration Court’s Interactive Scheduling System (ISS). Using ISS, agents can directly schedule this initial hearing (i.e., a master calendar hearing) at the Immigration Court at the time of issuing an NTA (even though this is before the NTA is filed) rather than waiting for the Court to schedule a hearing.[3] For NTAs issued at the border, the NTA is generally created at the same time that the hearing is scheduled and a copy of the NTA is given to the asylum seeker or other noncitizen with the scheduled hearing date, time, and location listed on the NTA.

DHS’s relatively recent access to the Court’s scheduling system created a new administrative problem: DHS employees could schedule Immigration Court hearings sooner than the agency could file the NTA, and this could have negative consequences for both the Immigration Court and the immigrant respondents themselves. Indeed, this is what happened. DHS has been able to block off the Court’s valuable limited time by scheduling hearings for cases that do not legally exist, because DHS has not filed the required NTA before the hearing. With Immigration Judges staring down 3.5 million pending immigration cases, every wasted hearing is a hearing that could have moved another case forward or resolved it.

Additionally, immigrants, usually asylum seekers these days, who then show up to scheduled hearings only to find out they have no case after all are left without any means of making an asylum claim. To actually move forward and gain a Court hearing on their asylum claim, immigrants need to have a case before the Immigration Court. Also, until a formal asylum petition is filed, asylum seekers cannot generally obtain work permits. These dismissals therefore potentially extend the time and difficulties that individuals, and their families, face in securing food, shelter and other essentials while waiting for a work permit. Indeed, the lack of clarity about their case may only add to their sense of legal limbo rather than alleviate it.

Nationally “No NTA Dismissals” Declining

There is some good news to report about DHS performance. The number as well as the rate of these dismissals has recently been dropping. As previously reported, there was a rapid increase in their numbers through FY 2022. During FY 2022, monthly dismissals averaged over 6,600. Last year, during FY 2023, numbers fell slightly to an average of 5,700 each month. However, this year so far during FY 2024 monthly average dismissals have fallen to 2,100 – down 68 percent from their peak during FY 2022.

Figure 1. Number and Rate of Immigration Court Monthly Dismissals for Lack of NTA

During this same time, Court filings in general have rapidly increased. During the 41 months spanning the start of FY 2021 to the end of February 2024, nine (9) percent of all new cases were dismissed for failure to file a timely NTA with the Immigration Court. But during the first five months of the current fiscal year (October 2023 – February 2024), this rate has fallen to just over one (1) percent.[4] See Table 1 and Figure 1. Thus, the number of cases dismissed have not only fallen but their rates of decline have been even more dramatic given the increase in total new removal cases.

Table 1. Number and Rate of Immigration Court Dismissals Because the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Did Not File a Timely Notice to Appear (NTA)
Fiscal Year New Court Cases Dismissed (No NTA) Percent Dismissed Reissued Rate**
2014 256,824 217 0.1% 0.0%
2015 184,198 130 0.1% 0.0%
2016 255,971 127 0.0% 0.0%
2017 265,429 164 0.1% 0.0%
2018 342,316 708 0.2% 3.8%
2019 673,395 8,192 1.2% 23.3%
2020 198,886 6,482 3.3% 13.8%
2021 317,582 33,802 10.6% 24.2%
2022 794,946 79,592 10.0% 25.3%
2023 1,439,305 68,869 4.8% 26.9%
*2024 980,262 10,598 1.1% **
* FY 2024 (October 2023 through February 2024).
** Reissued rate within 1 year only calculated over period through February 2023 to allow time for new NTAs to be filed.

Dismissals for Lack of NTA Vary Markedly by Hearing Location

Examining dismissals by Immigration Court hearing locations show that the problem of no NTA dismissals varied greatly by geography. Apart from IAD designated hearing locations apparently dealing with problematic filings, the Houston, Texas, Immigration Court and the Court’s Dedicated Docket in Miami, Florida, are clear standouts, with fifty (50) percent or more of their new cases dismissed for this reason since FY 2021.

Over the same period, the El Paso Dedicated Docket, and the Los Angeles Dedicated Docket have dismissal rates of 30 percent and 26 percent, respectively. Dedicated Docket (DD) cases, of course, have an expedited timeline so initial hearings may be scheduled quickly. However, other DD locations have below average dismissal rates from DHS’s failure to file a timely NTA. In Seattle, Washington, for example, that DD location had only a 2 percent dismissal rate during this same period, The Newark, New Jersey, DD location had a 3 percent dismissal rate, and the San Francisco DD location’s dismissal rate was 4 percent – less than half of even the overall national average for proceedings. For figures for these and other hearing locations see Table 2 at the end of this report.

Unfortunately, TRAC has still not been able to obtain information on just which agency created and issued these NTAs.[5] While we suspect that most are created by Border Patrol agents, and thus should be filed with the court by Customs and Border Protection (CBP), we don’t know if the problem is concentrated there, and if so, which sectors and specific locations are most responsible. The Court also receives NTAs from ports of entry, that are under the Office of Field Operations (OFO), as well as from two other DHS agencies: Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). No information to our knowledge has been publicly released by DHS on why and where these problems occur.

Resolving Cases with Unfiled NTAs

What happens to cases that are dismissed due to lack of filing? To rectify the Court’s dismissal, DHS cannot generally restart the case without issuing a brand new NTA. This then restarts removal proceedings under a new file number. Except for the parties involved, the public has not had a way of knowing that a new case file number was created to rectify DHS’s earlier error. This is because the case is now tracked under a brand-new file number without any reference back to the earlier case in the information the Immigration Court has previously made public.

To address this unique research challenge, TRAC obtained Court records covering the last ten years [FY 2014 – FY 2024 (thru February)] which allowed us to match up new removal proceedings with past removal proceedings that were dismissed for lack of an NTA. Using these data, TRAC has now been able to document that only around a quarter of these individuals who had their cases dismissed for lack of a filed NTA had their Court cases restarted within one year by DHS issuing a new NTA.[6] This suggests that in three-quarters of these 200,000 cases the immigrant was effectively left in legal limbo without any way to pursue asylum or other means of relief. See Figure 2.

Figure 2. DHS Only Rectifies Dismissals for One in Four Immigrants

According to Court records, rates for reissuing NTAs have not materially improved over this span of time. Apart from FY 2020, rates for reissuing NTAs have barely crept upward. The rate at which new NTAs were issued within a year was 23 percent during FY 2019, and 24 percent during FY 2021, 25 percent during FY 2022, and 27 percent in FY 2023. See earlier Table 1. During FY 2020, they dropped even lower to just 14 percent. This, no doubt, was in large part a result of the disruptions produced with the initial partial government shutdown.

DHS sometimes needs more than a second try to get it right. TRAC’s analysis found that on 1,913 occasions, the issuance of a new NTA was dismissed yet again because the second filing was also untimely. That is, neither the initial NTA nor the replacement NTA had been timely filed with the Court at the time of the scheduled hearings.

Table 2 also shows rates for rectifying these dismissals have varied across Immigration Court hearing locations.[7] For example, despite their sharply higher dismissal rates, the DD hearing locations in El Paso and Los Angeles also have much higher refiling rates of 68 percent and 77 percent, respectively. In contrast, despite a dismissal rate of 50 percent, the DD hearing location in Miami recorded an average refiling rate within a year of just 25 percent. Refiling rates by DHS at Baltimore, Maryland’s hearing location was just 2 percent.


This report provides an incomplete picture. Troubling is the almost total lack of transparency on where and why these DHS failures occurred. Equally troubling is the lack of solid information on what happened to these many immigrants when DHS never rectified its failure by reissuing and filing new NTAs to restart their Court cases.

Table 2. Number and Rate of Immigration Court Dismissals by Hearing Location Because the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Did Not File a Timely Notice to Appear (NTA)
Immigration Court Hearing Location* New Cases** Dismissed (No NTA) Percent
No NTA Reissued**
IAD designated Hearing Locations*** 17,613 15,643 89% 37%
Houston, Texas 15,897 8,576 54% 21%
Miami - Dedicated DOCket - Dd 16,371 8,108 50% 25%
El Paso - Dedicated DOCket - Dd 616 185 30% 68%
Los Angeles - Dedicated DOCket - Dd 11,146 2,879 26% 77%
Santa Ana Immigration Court 16,450 4,045 25% 72%
Baltimore, Md 8,040 1,930 24% 2%
Leland Federal Building 4,243 877 21% 15%
Annandale, Virginia 14,579 2,907 20% 19%
Hyattsville Immigration Court 9,672 1,915 20% 21%
Los Angeles, California 21,931 4,025 18% 40%
Van Nuys Immigration Court 15,194 2,522 17% 41%
Atlanta Non-Detained Juvenile 2,560 409 16% 39%
New York - Dedicated DOCket - Dd 16,288 2,583 16% 29%
San Diego, California 7,506 1,147 15% 63%
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 2,699 403 15% 11%
New York City, New York 59,520 8,069 14% 21%
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 30,695 3,991 13% 7%
Miami, Florida 147,545 18,435 12% 16%
Houston - S. Gessner 24,564 3,002 12% 16%
Louisville, Kentucky 8,284 989 12% 9%
Denver - Dedicated DOCket - Dd 3,864 449 12% 55%
Laredo Immigration Court 976 113 12% 39%
New York Varick 16,967 1,944 11% 17%
Chicago, Illinois 50,971 5,470 11% 9%
Phoenix, Arizona 10,868 1,162 11% 50%
Boston - Dedicated DOCket - Dd 25,555 2,563 10% 51%
Memphis, Tennessee 29,757 2,666 9% 4%
New York Broadway 18,899 1,506 8% 21%
Los Angeles - North Los Angeles Street 8,580 668 8% 36%
Sacramento Immigration Court 10,818 825 8% 50%
Atlanta, Georgia 36,842 2,803 8% 6%
Mia Non-Detained Juveniles 529 40 8% 13%
El Paso, Texas 6,565 490 7% 28%
New Orleans, Louisiana 27,386 2,009 7% 18%
Nyb - Dedicated DOCket - Dd 4,899 338 7% 20%
San Diego - Dedicated DOCket - Dd 1,034 69 7% 51%
Las Vegas, Nevada 9,022 600 7% 17%
Denver, Colorado 18,379 1,200 7% 36%
San Juan, Puerto Rico 1,535 98 6% 32%
Hartford, Connecticut 19,878 1,268 6% 8%
Orlando, Florida 86,314 5,477 6% 5%
Cleveland, Ohio 18,156 1,143 6% 27%
Sterling 11,916 715 6% 16%
Boston, Massachusetts 48,433 2,862 6% 6%
San Francisco, California 31,485 1,847 6% 34%
Houston Greenspoint Park 24,197 1,379 6% 16%
Louisville Juvenile 793 45 6% 9%
Arlington Juvenile 1,068 59 6% 41%
Newark, New Jersey 44,630 2,398 5% 8%
Reno, Nevada 1,216 65 5% 60%
Tucson, Arizona 928 49 5% 41%
Bloomington 15,999 782 5% 24%
Chicago, Il (Non-Detained Satellite) 5,967 277 5% 18%
Harlingen, Texas 7,785 340 4% 24%
San Antonio, Texas 23,096 967 4% 5%
Dallas, Texas 57,960 2,399 4% 1%
San Francisco - Dedicated DOCket - Dd 7,164 278 4% 47%
Charlotte 42,892 1,644 4% 16%
Detroit, Michigan 6,580 252 4% 27%
Buffalo, New York 5,463 208 4% 35%
MPP Brownsville Gateway International Bridge 4,631 172 4% 24%
Chicago Non-Detained Juveniles 931 34 4% 3%
MPP Laredo,Texas - Port of Entry 829 28 3% 14%
Omaha, Nebraska 11,942 382 3% 32%
Baltimore, Maryland 7,535 236 3% 0%
MPP Court San Ysidro Port 688 21 3% 19%
Salt Lake City, Utah 19,062 536 3% 35%
Portland, Oregon 7,231 201 3% 56%
San Francisco Non-Detained Juveniles 1,047 27 3% 11%
Newark - Dedicated DOCket - Dd 21,656 556 3% 43%
Philadelphia Juvenile 1,523 38 2% 13%
N. Los Angeles Non-Detained Juvenile 1,243 31 2% 77%
Southwest Key 1,347 31 2% 3%
MPP Court El Paso 2,806 60 2% 5%
Kansas City, Missouri 15,530 312 2% 33%
Van Nuys Juvenile 2,662 53 2% 30%
Bloomington Juvenile 1,484 28 2% 7%
Seattle - Dedicated DOCket - Dd 2,977 56 2% 79%
Memphis Juvenile 3,049 50 2% 6%
Sterling Juvenile 856 14 2% 21%
San Antonio Satellite Office 13,646 194 1% 30%
Harlingen, Texas 2,372 29 1% 45%
Boston Unaccompanied Juvenile 1,493 18 1% 0%
Denver - Juvenile 850 10 1% 0%
New Orleans Juvenile 1,770 18 1% 11%
Omaha Juvenile 1,797 18 1% 56%
Charlotte Juvenile 2,227 20 1% 10%
Seattle, Washington 11,686 82 1% 49%
Los Angeles Juvenile - Non Detained 2,095 14 1% 29%
* Immigration Court hearing locations that had at least 500 new cases from FY 2021 - FY2023 (through February).
** Reissued within 1 year. Rates calculated based on new cases from FY 2021 - FY 2023 (as of February) to allow 1 year period for refiling to occur.
***Note most closures at IADs are for the failure to file an NTA. The Court created these special "IAD locational codes" ultimately within 77 Courts beginning back in July 2018.
[1]^ Credible fear review cases made up the largest segment of the remaining three percent.
[2]^ Delay in filing NTAs became common during the Trump administration judged based on the differences that TRAC found between the date on the NTA and the date that the NTA finally entered the Immigration Court’s records. However, as long as the NTA was filed before the date of the first scheduled hearing, this delay did not cause the case to be dismissed since the Court had received the NTA and thus had jurisdiction at the time of the first hearing.
[3]^ During this same period court decisions have challenged whether an initial NTA could omit information about when and where the initial hearing would take place and provide this later in a second supplemental notice. “The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), in an important precedential decision, held that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) cannot remedy a defective Notice to Appear (NTA) that lacks time and date information because this remedy is contrary to the plain text of the regulations and inconsistent with a prior decision of the Supreme Court. Matter of Aguilar Hernandez, 28 I&N Dec. 774 (BIA 2024).” See discussion here.
[4]^ Because case completions are lower than newly arriving cases, as a percentage of completions they peaked in FY 2022 at 16 percent, or roughly one out of every six. This year they have fallen to around 14 percent, or one out of every seven.
[5]^ A suit was filed last year with the pro bono assistance of attorneys from the Public Citizen Litigation Group seeking to obtain data that would shed more light on this. Long et al vs ICE and CBP, Civil Action 5:23-CV-1564 (USDC, NYN, 2024).
[6]^ If subsequent filings at any point are included, including filings years later, over this ten-year period then the rate rises to just a third of all Court case dismissals.
[7]^ This table attributes the reissued NTA to the hearing location that this case was filed in.
TRAC is a nonpartisan, nonprofit data research center affiliated with the Newhouse School of Public Communications and the Whitman School of Management, both at Syracuse University. For more information, to subscribe, or to donate, contact trac@syr.edu or call 315-443-3563.