|(10 Sep 2020)
In August 2020, the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) proposed a new rule that would effectively eliminate administrative closure as a docket management tool for Immigration Judges. The EOIR justified this proposed rule by claiming that administrative closure has "exacerbated both the extent of the existing backlog of immigration court cases and the difficulty in addressing that backlog in a fair and timely manner."
TRAC analyzed the EOIR's claims as well as the historical data on administrative closure from 1986, and has just published its findings in a detailed report. The link to the report is below.
TRAC's detailed analysis of the court records on administrative closure yields four key findings.
First, administrative closure has been routinely used by Immigration Judges to manage their growing caseloads as well as manage the unresolved overlapping of jurisdictions between the EOIR and other immigration agencies. From FY 1986 to 2020, 6.1 percent (or 376,439) deportation and removal cases had been administratively closed during their lifespan. Each year, between 1 percent and 30 percent of cases are administratively closed, with high percentages of administrative closures during the Reagan and Bush Administrations in the late 1980s and early 1990s and during the Obama Administration between 2012 and 2016.
Second, TRAC finds that far from contributing to the backlog, administrative closure has helped reduce the backlog. If the 292,042 cases that are currently administratively closed and not yet recalendared were brought back onto the Court's active docket, this would suddenly increase the Court's active workload from its current backlog at the end of July 2020 of 1,233,307 cases to 1,525,349 cases. This would produce a 24 percent jump in the court's already clogged hearing schedules, pushing the resolution of other backlogged cases off for many additional months if not years.
Third, data from the Immigration Courts show that immigrants who obtain administrative closure are likely to have followed legal requirements and obtain lawful status. When cases were administratively closed, recalendared, and decided, most immigrants met the legal standard to remain in the country lawfully. For example, for those cases in which the government was seeking removal orders, six out of ten (60.1%) immigrants met the high legal threshold of remaining in the country. The largest proportion of these had their cases terminated since the Court ultimately found there were no longer valid grounds to deport them. Just three out of ten (30.3%) immigrants were ultimately ordered removed.
Fourth, the EOIR significantly misrepresented the data it used to justify this rule. Specifically, the agency claims to show low numbers of case completions during the Obama Administration and high numbers of case completions during the Trump Administration. In reality, the data behind this argument artificially eliminates cases that were administratively closed. Its argument also fails to recognize that average annual case completions per Immigration Judge have actually declined from 737 closures per judge to 657 per judge during the past four years, not increased, perhaps due to the changes introduced by the current Administration.
Read the full report at:
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