Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) reports immigration case backlogs reached a record 247,922 by mid-June of this year (“Immigration Case Backlog Continues to Grow”, TRAC 2010). The report also shows that these cases wait in the Immigration Courts of the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) for an average of 459 days.
Rising backlogs and wait times are a natural consequence of a Department of Homeland Security that prioritizes immigration enforcement over sound policy. Indeed, the report alludes to court decisions stemming some of the more flagrant en masse hearing practices common to Streamline courts. Enforcing the constitutional right of due process (a little bit more than before, at least) without changing prosecution patterns causes burdens on courts to grow with increasing speed. . . exactly as Streamline detractors have been saying for a while now.
Add to this the fact that, for years now, EOIR hasn’t hired enough Immigration Judges to keep up with turnover–some seats that were vacant in 2006 are still empty!–and it’s clear that resources don’t factor into the considerations of those pushing for increased criminalization of immigration.
The report highlights the utility of the Immigration Court Caseload Tool that can now be found on TRAC’s website. The tool allows users to look up pending cases and average wait times by state, court, and hearing location, and by nationality of defendant. The data goes back to 1998 and is updated frequently.
Using even more recent data than TRAC’s report, the Immigration Court Caseload Tool calculates that by the end of fiscal year 2010 (September 27), 261,083 cases were awaiting their day in immigration court, the largest backlog U.S. Immigration Courts have ever experienced.