Immigration Courts Are Working Faster, And Getting Further Behind
Immigration Court case closures have reached record highs, but the docket keeps getting longer, due to the Biden administration’s sieve-like admission policies. With a current backlog of 2.1 million cases, closures would have to double existing levels just to keep up with all the new filings – and that’s not going to happen.
During the first four months of fiscal year 2023, case closures totaled 172,180, 85 percent higher than the same period of 2019, according to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC).
Meantime, new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) filings in Immigration Court are up even more. The court is on pace this year to receive nearly 1 million new Notices to Appear (NTAs) seeking to get immigrants in front of a judge.
In fact, the NTA figures are understated and case closures are inflated. As TRAC explains:
“One out of every six new cases DHS initiates are now being dismissed because Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers are not filing the actual NTA with the court. These have clearly contributed to the rise in the number of case completions.”
TRAC goes on to say: “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 administrative closure or prosecutorial discretion to close a case that is not a priority for deportation.”
In a bit of fuzzy math, The Wall Street Journal (from behind its paywall) attempted to break down the 172,180 cases closed between Oct. 1, 2022 and Jan. 31, 2023. The Journal article said about a third of cases ended with a deportation order (which is not necessarily the same as being deported) while another third were dismissed before trial. Dismissals can occur when officials don’t file the proper paperwork for a case to proceed.
The final third, the article stated, were “36,000 migrants [who] won asylum or other permission to stay in the U.S.” Actually, one third of 172,180 cases would be around 57,000. Neither the Journal nor available government statistics explained this discrepancy.
Whichever way the numbers shake out, Matt O’Brien, director of investigations for the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), concludes, “This is an issue of capacity.”
“The number of aliens being released into the country has far outstripped the ability of CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to keep up with the completion and submission of the necessary paperwork.”
O’Brien, a former Immigration Court judge, adds, “As the court backlog continues to grow by leaps and bounds, immigration judges have to shift attention from conducting hearings on the merits to deal with procedural snafus.”
So, is this another manifestation of the Biden administration’s multi-pronged strategy to cripple and gut immigration enforcement? Affirmative, says O’Brien.
“If nothing else, it sets the stage for criticizing ICE and the Immigration Court while distracting attention from the real problem: Team Biden’s complete, total and utter disregard for U.S. immigration law.”