|(18 Jan 2023)
The Immigration Court backlog of asylum cases surpassed 800,000 for the first time at the end of December 2022. Pending Immigration Court cases of all types reached 2,056,328 at the end of last month, another all-time high.
Responding in part to these expanding workload challenges, the Biden administration on January 5, 2023, announced it was effectively cutting off the ability to seek asylum for individuals from three new countries — Cuba, Haiti, and Nicaragua — who joined Venezuela whose asylum avenue was similarly cut off last October.
This report examines the likelihood that these new policies targeting specific nationalities will help reduce the stream of new cases arriving at the Immigration Court. Findings are based on a month-by-month examination of their changing nationality makeup using database records which TRAC recently obtained from the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.
In January 2022, Venezuelans at the beginning of this past calendar year made up over a quarter of all new NTAs. Together, these four countries accounted for over half (57%) of all new Notices to Appear (NTAs) issued by the DHS seeking a deportation order by an Immigration Judge. By December 2022, the share of cases from these four countries had fallen to just 30 percent, and Venezuelans made up only 8 percent.
However, these changes weren't necessarily attributable to the Administration's new policies. Indeed, there has been no substantial drop in Venezuelans since October. Further, even in the absence of any change in policy, individuals from Cuba, Haiti, and Nicaragua also declined after August 2022 in both their numbers as well as their proportion of total NTAs.
Taking their place have been citizens from a number of other countries. Top nationalities are not limited to foreign nationals from countries in the Western Hemisphere. They include immigrants from India and Russia. In fact, Russians were the second largest component of new NTAs in December 2022.
There are other important components including individuals and families from four countries in South America: Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, and Brazil. An increasing number are now from the Caribbean nation of the Dominican Republic.
Sizable numbers continue to arrive and are issued new NTAs from the three Northern Triangle countries of Central America — Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. Title 42 immediate expulsions at the border also have not stopped a fairly steady growth in individuals and families with Mexican nationalities. Indeed, Mexicans accounted for the largest number of new NTAs among all nationalities in December.
This suggests that there are a myriad of other important factors impacting immigration flows and the issuance of new NTAs. This makes it challenging if not foolhardy to forecast — based on these data — how these specific administration policy changes will influence future filing trends.
The full report also discusses the flow of new Immigration Court cases to different locales within the U.S. This often differs from overall national trends since immigrants from specific countries tend to head to communities in which they have family or other ties.
Read the full report for further details:
TRAC's free web query tool updated through the end of December 2022 allows anyone to drill more deeply into these trends including by age, gender, language, and whether those with new NTAs have been able to obtain attorneys to represent them in the Immigration Court. Choose between the Immigration Filings tool for tabulations, or use TRAC's Immigration Lawyers mapping tool.
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