Latest Immigration Court Numbers, as of July 2012

ICE Requests for Deportation Orders Down 3.4 Percent in July

Table 1. ICE Deportation Filings, July 2012
New filings 17,671
% change previous month* -3.4%
% change filing rate FY 2011 -8.3%
% change filing rate FY 2010 -11.9%
* adjusted to equalize workdays in month

The latest available data from the Immigration Courts show that during July 2012 the government reported 17,671 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) filings seeking deportation orders. According to the case-by-case information analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), this number has fallen 3.4 percent compared to filings in the previous month.

These latest figures continue the slide in ICE filings that have been taking place since 2009. For example, when the latest month's ICE court filings are compared with average monthly files in prior years, the recent activity was down 8.3 percent from levels in FY 2011, and has fallen 11.9 percent from monthly filings during FY 2010 (see Table 1).

These latest Immigration Court numbers are based on case-by-case information obtained by TRAC under the Freedom of Information Act from the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR).

Based on these data, TRAC has also developed year-end projections for FY 2012. Projected figures were developed for each state, court, hearing location and nationality. These projections along with actual counts for fiscal 2012 to date, as well as for earlier years, are available using TRAC's Immigration Court Deportation Proceedings Tool which has been updated with data through the end of July 2012[1]. The tool also provides separate figures by the most serious charge ICE based its deportation request on. Details are separately available for those ICE charged with: (a) being an aggravated felon, (b) other criminal activity, (c) terrorism, (d) threats to national security, (e) illegal entry, (f) other immigration charge, and (g) other miscellaneous charges.

Court Deportation Orders Fell Sharply in July

Table 2. Deportation Orders, July 2012
New deportation orders* 7,954
% change previous month** -19.0%
% change filing rate FY 2011 -40.3%
% change filing rate FY 2010 -42.2%
* includes removal and voluntary departure orders
** adjusted to equalize workdays in month

During July 2012 ICE was successful in obtaining 7,954 new deportation orders from Immigration Judges. This number includes both removal and voluntary departure orders. As shown in Table 2, however, this was 19.0 percent fewer orders than the number ICE obtained during June.

Deportation orders issued by the Immigration Courts started falling in 2010, but the sharpest declines occurred this year. July 2012 orders have fallen over 40 percent from the average monthly number of deportation orders issued during FY 2011, and are 42 percent lower than the monthly average during FY 2010.

This recent sharp drop-off in deportation orders has not yet shown up in actual ICE deportation activity. Actual deportations so far have continued to climb (see TRAC's August 13 report). Very recent case-by-case data TRAC obtained from ICE under the Freedom of Information Act suggests that ICE may increasingly be bypassing the Immigration Courts and deporting individuals without Court action using other provisions of the law.

You can obtain more detailed figures by state, Immigration Court, hearing location, and nationality using TRAC's Deportation Outcomes by Charge Tool which has been updated with court decisions reported through July 2012[1].

Immigration Court Backlog, Wait Times Keep Climbing

Table 3. Immigration Backlog, July 2012
Court backlog 320,331
% change previous month 2.0%
% change end FY 2011 7.7%
% change end previous FY 21.9%

Despite the fact that new court filings have been falling, the Court backlog keeps climbing. This was due in part to case closures failing to keep up with even this lowered number of filings. Further, additional classes of cases such as reopened and transferred cases — not just new filings — added to the Court's backlog. As shown in Table 3, during July the backlog grew an addition 2 percent and reached the all-time high of 320,331 cases — up 7.7 percent since the end of September 2011. The backlog is now 21.9 percent higher than it was at the end of September 2010.

Processing and wait times also increased. The average number of days for cases to get resolved this fiscal year are shown in Table 4. Cases resulting in removal orders took 197 days on average — or more than an additional month longer for decisions than last year. Relief orders took over two years (772 days) on average thus far in FY 2012, more than a month and a half (49 days) longer than last year.

Table 4. Immigration Court Wait and Processing Times, July 2012
Case Status Average Number of Days
FY 2011 FY 2012
through June through July
Removal orders 165 196 197
Voluntary departure orders 327 354 354
Terminations 470 531 532
Relief granted 723 773 772
Prosecutorial Discretion (PD) closures n/a 803 833
Average days cases have been waiting 489 526 528

Further, unclosed cases now in the Court's backlog have already been waiting on average nearly a year and a half (528 days) and typically will need to wait considerably longer before they are resolved. Average wait times increased by over a month (39 days) over wait times at the end of last September.

Full details on the Court's backlog — by charge, state, nationality, Immigration Court and hearing location — can be viewed in TRAC's Immigration Court Backlog Tool, now also updated with data through July 2012.

Or, to view similar details on the processing times by outcome you can use TRAC's Processing Times by Outcome Tool also updated with data through July 2012[1]. Separately tracked are the number as well as the average number of days taken to handle removals, voluntary departures, terminations, relief orders, and administrative closures.

More Cases Closed Under ICE Prosecutorial Discretion in July

Table 5. Prosecutorial Discretion Closures
Month Closures
July 2012 1,567
June 2012 1,103
May 2012 1,138
April 2012 943
March 2012 1,002
Total during FY 2012 7,251

July saw the largest number of prosecutorial discretion (PD) closures since this special ICE program was announced in August 2011. The case-by-case court records show that there were 1,567 PD closures reported during July. As shown in Table 5, this is up from 1,103 such closures in June and 1,138 closures during May.

The monthly trends show that the volume of closures is continuing to build and, as yet, shows no signs of letting up. Overall PD closures this year through the end of July numbered 7,251. This represented about 2.4 percent of the Court backlog as of the end of last September.

It is taking a long time for PD closures to work their way through the system. Such closures as of the end of July were taking on average 833 days, two months longer than cases ordering relief have taken this past year (see earlier Table 4). And with the passage of time, PD closures are taking ever longer. The average days for closures through the end of July of 833 days, up from 803 days on average from the previous month.

The Los Angeles Immigration Court continues to lead the country with the largest number of closures under this program — 1,236, up from 707 at the end of June. The San Francisco Immigration Court is now in second place with 635 PD closures overall, up from 487 in June. The Denver Immigration Court has slipped to third place with 629 PD closures.

TRAC's Immigration Prosecutorial Discretion Court Closures Tool provides a detailed look at the cases for each court and hearing location with data updated through July 2012[1]. The tool also provides prosecutorial discretion closures by type, as well as compared with each court's pending caseload.

[1]Instructions on using some of TRAC's tools can be found in recorded webinars. Click on the link in the table below corresponding to the tool you would like demonstrated, and advance to the timestamp listed.

TRAC Immigration Tools demonstrations
Tool Name and Webinar Link Webinar Date Timestamp Duration
Immigration Court Deportation Proceedings 2/22/2012 0:26:16 8 min.
Deportation Outcomes by Charge 2/15/2012 0:18:50 9 min.
Processing Times by Outcome 2/15/2012 0:28:02 3 min.
Prosecutorial Discretion Court Closures 8/2/2012 0:35:48 3 min.