Putting TRAC to Work
  Policy and Public Interest Groups
Human Rights First
August 23, 2011

“Rational Enforcement” – A Good Step for the Immigration Courts
By Lori Adams

Last week, President Obama announced that his administration will focus its limited resources on more “rational enforcement” of U.S. immigration laws to prioritize the removal of non-citizens who pose a serious threat to public safety or national security. As part of this effort, the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security will review thousands of cases that are currently in our immigration court system in order to determine on a case-by-case basis which cases can be administratively closed because the individual poses no threat. This initiative should help to clear the tremendous backlog in the immigration courts. According to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), in December 2010 there were 267,752 cases pending in immigration court. As of February 2011, the average time for a case pending was 467 days. If done right, the administration’s efforts should allow immigration judges to focus their time on deciding the cases of those who may be eligible for relief and on ordering the deportation of individuals who actually might pose a risk to public safety or national security – rather than spending limited resources hearing the cases of non-criminals, military veterans, the elderly, and other “low-priority” populations, including those who came to the United States as small children and know no other home. If the backlog in the immigration court system can be reduced, we hope to see the pace of hearings improve for asylum seekers and others who need to have their cases for relief adjudicated by an immigration judge.

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, Syracuse University
Copyright 2011
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