Trump Leaves Biden 1.3 Million Case Backlog in Immigration Courts
(19 Jan 2021) When President Donald Trump assumed office, 542,411 people had deportation cases pending before the Immigration Courts. At the start of 2021, that number now stands at 1,290,766—nearly two and a half times the level when Trump assumed office just four years ago.

Even if the new administration halted immigration enforcement entirely, it would still take more than President-Elect Biden's entire first term in office—assuming pre-pandemic case completion rates—for the cases now in the active backlog to be completed.

The average wait for a hearing date is now 1,642 days or 54 months. For half, their wait will be at least 1,425 days or 47 months. And for the top 5 percent who have been longest in the queue, the wait time is now at least 3,558 days (117 months)—almost ten years.

While the Trump Administration has kept up a steady drum beat portraying most immigrants as criminals posing a risk to public safety, almost everyone in the Court's current backlog—98.2 percent—have only been charged by the government with purely immigration violations. Just 1.3 percent of individuals with cases in the court's backlog involve alleged criminal activity that constitute deportable grounds under the Immigration and Naturalization Act.

Terrorism or some type of national security charge are also extremely rare. Just 17 out of the 1,290,766 individuals in the court's current backlog involve an alleged terrorism violation. An additional 79 are alleged to have committed a national security violation such as commission of acts of torture or extrajudicial killings abroad, membership in a totalitarian party, or trying to evade laws prohibiting export of U.S. goods, technology, or other sensitive information.

Wait times varied substantially across the country driven by the number and complexity of pending cases as compared with available judges hearing cases in each court. Among the 35 courts with at least 10,000 pending cases, the longest average wait time—2,324 days or 42 percent higher than the national average—was found in the Denver Immigration Court. In second place was the New Orleans Immigration Court where cases in the backlog had been waiting on average 2,120 days. This was followed by the Arlington Immigration Court with 1,899 average wait days until hearings were scheduled.

There are currently individuals from over 200 countries with pending cases before the Immigration Court. Of these, nearly a quarter are from Guatemala. The second most numerous are from Honduras, and in third place are those from Mexico.

The highest average wait times among the top ten nationalities with the largest numbers in the backlog were for individuals from El Salvador with 1,923 days—or 17 percent higher than the national average. Individuals from Mexico had the next highest average wait times at 1,875 days, followed by those from China with an average wait time in the queue of 1,751 days. Among the top ten, Cubans had the lowest average wait times—958 days. Individuals from Venezuela were next lowest with 1,130 days.

The full report, with extensive supporting tables, provides a valuable baseline for the public about the state of America's immigration court system at the start of a new administration. Not only do these data paint a detailed picture of an Immigration Court overwhelmed by immigration cases, most of which do not appear driven by criminal deportability grounds, but these data also illustrate the diverse cross-section of immigrants in the county, many of whom have been in the United States for years.

The full report is found at:

To examine a variety of Immigration Court data, including asylum data, the backlog, MPP, and more now updated through December 2020, use TRAC's Immigration Court tools here:

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