FY 2022 Seeing Rapid Increase in Immigration Court Completions
(16 Sep 2022) Immigration Court case completions have been rapidly increasing. During the first eleven months of FY 2022. Immigration Judges have closed over 375,000 cases — a historical record. If the pace continues, closures should top more than 400,000 by the end of the fiscal year. This is nearly three times as many case closures as last year. It is also roughly 50 percent higher than the previous high in FY 2019 during the Trump administration.

The pace of closures has also been accelerating month-by-month since October of 2021. During the past four months, monthly closures blew past 40,000 and topped 50,000 during May and June. If average closures during these past four months of 48,721 continue, this would represent an annualized rate approaching 600,000.

Part of the explanation for this increased case dispositions is the increase in the number of Immigration Judges. At the end of FY 2019, there were reported to be 442 Immigration Judges. While the pace of judge hiring slowed somewhat during the pandemic, the Court started this fiscal year with 559 IJs — 26 percent more than before. But the increase in the number of judges alone does not begin to explain the rapid acceleration in case closures.

Given the monthly increase in the Immigration Court backlog, which is approaching two million total cases, it is notable that as pandemic restrictions have gradually relaxed, Immigration Judges across the country have significantly increased case completions especially in recent months. The bulk of these completions, like in previous years, are for deportation cases, but the types of outcomes show some significant differences.

Judges have issued more removal (i.e. deportation) orders in FY 2022 than in the previous year. But the biggest growth in closures can be seen in three key areas: the much higher numbers of cases that are terminated, the higher number of cases in which the government never filed an NTA to begin with, and the return of the use of prosecutorial discretion to close a case that is not a priority for deportation.

The number of cases closed by termination where the underlying charges against the immigrant are not upheld grew 86 percent between FY 2017 and FY 2022. Many of these cases were quite old, indeed some stretching back to the earliest still pending cases going back to 1996. These appear to represent cases where the circumstances have changed so that the basis for a removal are no longer present if they even once existed. Terminating these cases helped to clear out the Court's backlog.

For full details on the accelerating number of Immigration Court case completions read the full report at:

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