News & Politics

Report: 437,000 Deportation Cases Backlogged; Delayed for up to 5 Years

A report by the Government Accountability Office says that the backlog of deportation cases in the nation’s immigration courts is so bad that some illegal aliens won’t have a hearing until 2022.

More than 437,000 pending cases, double what it was in 2006, are clogging the courts giving illegals a huge head start in evading enforcement procedures to send them home.

Washington Examiner:

“As of February 2, 2017, half of courts had master calendar hearings scheduled as far as January 2018 or beyond and had individual merits hearings, during which immigration judges generally render case decisions, scheduled as far as June 2018 or beyond. However, the range of hearing dates varied; as of February 2, 2017, one court had master calendar hearings scheduled no further than March 2017 while another court had master calendar hearings scheduled in May 2021, more than 4 years in the future. Similarly, courts varied in the extent to which individual merits hearings were scheduled into the future. As of February 2, 2017, one court had individual hearings scheduled out no further than March 2017 while another court had scheduled individual hearings 5 years into the future, February 2022.”

The doubling of pending cases, however, is not the result of more illegals crossing the border, said GAO, according to the CIS analysis. The actual reason: Courts are taking much longer to get through individual cases.

“Incredibly, GAO found, ‘the number of immigration court cases completed annually declined by 31 percent from fiscal year 2006 to fiscal year 2015, from about 287,000 cases completed in fiscal year 2006 to about 199,000 completed in 2015,’ even as the number of immigration judges increased by 17 percent over that 10-year period,” said CIS fellow and former Immigration and Naturalization Service counsel Andrew R. Arthur.

In his analysis, Arthur suggested that some of the backlog can also be blamed on the judges granting multiple case continuances. He wrote:

“One of the main reasons why IJs are taking more time to complete cases today than they did 10 years ago is an increase in the number of continuances that IJs have granted over that period. As the GAO noted (logically): ‘cases that experience more continuances take longer to complete.’ After reviewing 3.7 million continuance records from FY 2006 through FY 2015, GAO concluded that continuances increased by 23 percent from FY 2006 to FY 2015 with ‘the percentage of completed cases which had multiple continuances’ also increasing during that period. Most critically, the cases in which the largest number of continuances that GAO identified were issued, those with ‘four or more continuances,’ increased from 9 percent of cases completed in FY 2006 to 20 percent of cases completed in FY 2015.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has hired 125 new immigration judges but that’s not enough. The backlog of deportation has created great incentive for immigration judges to retire or resign, leaving even more openings than would occur with normal attrition.

As an administrative matter, you might be able to limit continuances, but when 40% of illegals never bother to show up for their hearing in the first place, it hardly matters. This is a problem that will be with us until we can reduce the flood of illegals at the border so that the backlog will be reduced.