Immigration Court Backlog Now Growing Faster Than Ever, Burying Judges in an Avalanche of Cases
(18 Jan 2022) The U.S. Immigration Court system is currently staring up a mountain of pending cases that at the end of December 2021 reached 1,596,193 — the largest in history. If every person with a pending immigration case were gathered together it would be larger than the population of Philadelphia, the sixth largest city in the United States. Previous administrations — all the way back through at least the George W. Bush administration — have failed when they tried to tackle the seemingly intractable problem of the Immigration Court "backlog."

Yet a disturbing new trend has emerged during the Biden administration that demands attention: since the start of the Biden administration, the growth of the backlog has been accelerating at a breakneck pace.

Quarterly growth in the number of pending Immigration Court cases between October and December 2021 is the largest on record. In just this short period, the backlog increased by almost 140,000 cases. This far exceeds any 3-month increase during the most dramatic period of growth of the Trump administration. These findings suggest that the Immigration Courts are entering a worrying new era of even more crushing caseloads — all the more concerning since no attempt at a solution has yet been able to reverse the avalanche of cases that Immigration Judges now face.

The partial Court shutdown during the COVID-19 pandemic has, of course, contributed to the backlog's growth. However, the main contributor is the recent deluge of new cases filed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). If the current pace during the first quarter of FY 2022 of newly arriving Notices to Appear (NTAs) continues, the Court will receive 800,000 new cases — at least 300,000 more than the annual total the Court has ever received during its existence.

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