Immigration Court Backlogs Cause Average Case to Drag on for 604 Days

Thursday, June 04, 2015
(graphic: Steve Straehley, AllGov)

Being detained by U.S. immigration authorities can mean waiting for more than 600 days before learning one’s fate.

 

The Immigration Policy Center says a lack of judges has created a backlog of cases that now averages 604 days—that’s a year and eight months—before conclusion. And that’s just the national average.

 

In some cities, the wait is much longer: Denver (819 days), Phoenix (806 days), Chicago (782 days), Los Angeles (768 days), Houston (636 days) and New York (605 days).

 

The center also found that immigration court backlogs increased 163% from fiscal year 2003 to April 2015.

 

During this time funding for the courts did go up—74%—from $199 million to $347.2 million. However, there are fewer judges. There are only 233 now compared to 270 in April 2011. Seventeen more are expected to start work by the end of the month and 68 are in the process of being hired, Louis Ruffino, a spokesman for the Executive Office for Immigration Review at the Justice Department, told the Los Angeles Times.

 

Part of the reason for the delay is that the federal government prioritized cases involving undocumented minors and detained families. That pushed others who were waiting for a hearing to the back of the line.

 

The problem could soon become worse. About 100 immigration judges are expected to retire this year, according to the Times.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Steve Straehley

 

To Learn More:

Empty Benches: Underfunding of Immigration Courts Undermines Justice (Immigration Policy Center)

Immigration: 445,000 Awaiting a Court Date, Which Might Not Come for 4 Years (by Molly Hennessey-Fiske, Los Angeles Times)

Thousands of California Immigration Cases Put on Hold for Five Years (by Steve Straehley and Ken Broder, AllGov California)

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