Hot Spots With Highest Growth in Immigration Court Backlog
The county in the country with the fastest growing number of individuals with pending cases before the Immigration Court was Mecklenburg County (Charlotte) in North Carolina. The number of individuals residing in Mecklenburg County with pending cases shot up by 34 percent between May 31, 2017 and December 31, 2017. Coming in second with a growth rate of 30 percent over this same period was Loudoun County, Virginia. Leesburg is the county seat there.
Nationally, the Immigration Court backlog over the same period increased by 11 percent, reaching a new all-time high of 667,839 at the end of last December. These pending cases were spread across 2,559 separate counties. Considered for the rankings in this report are the 100 counties among the total of 2,559 counties that had the largest number of cases involving their residents. These "top 100" counties accounted for almost three out of four (73%) of the court's total backlog.
Certain states stood out. For example, five out of ten of the counties with the fastest growing number of pending Immigration Court cases were located in Maryland. In Baltimore City, Maryland with a growth rate that placed it third in the country, the number of residents with pending court cases increased by 28 percent. The four other Maryland counties in the top ten nationally were Anne Arundel County (up 27%), Baltimore County (up 27%), Prince George's County (up 25%) and Montgomery County (up 21%).
Other states with counties in the top ten ranking nationally included Duval County (Jacksonville), Florida with an increase of 27 percent, Tarrant County (Fort Worth), Texas which increased by 21 percent, and Middlesex County in Massachusetts where the number of residents with pending Immigration Court cases jumped by 20 percent.
Only two counties out of the top 100, experienced a reduction in the number of residents with pending court cases. Pinal County (Florence), Arizona had a 9 percent drop its numbers. The only other county among those examined that experienced a decline was El Paso County, Texas. Its pending caseload fell by 3 percent between the end of May and the end of December 2017.
Two additional counties had a stable number of residents with pending cases, experiencing no change in their numbers between May 31, 2017 and December 31, 2017. These were Montgomery County (Conroe), Texas and Clark County (Las Vegas), Nevada. All others grew.
These results are based upon case-by-case court records that were obtained by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The analyses carried out by TRAC assigned the county location to each case based on the reported address for that immigrant. If the individual was currently detained, the location was for the address of the detention facility.
Which Counties Have The Most Residents With Pending Court Cases?
California was the state with the largest number of counties that ranked in the top 100 by the current size of their pending Immigration Court backlog. That state included 19 out of the top 100 counties. New Jersey, New York, and Texas each had ten counties in the top 100. A total of 25 states had at least one county that ranked among the top 100 in the nation in the concentration of residents with pending court cases.
In terms of sheer numbers in their pending caseload, Los Angeles County in California topped the list with the largest number of residents with pending cases. Its growth rate was only slightly higher—12 percent—than the national growth in the court's backlog of 11 percent over this seven-month period.
Harris County (Houston), Texas had the second highest number of residents in the court's pending caseload. Its numbers grew much more slowly than the national average, with an increase in the number of its residents with pending cases of just 3 percent.
Three New York metropolitan counties - Queens, Kings (Brooklyn), and Suffolk (eastern Long Island) - placed third, fourth, and fifth, respectively, in the sheer number of residents with pending Immigration Court cases. The growth rate of their pending cases between May 31, 2017 and December 31, 2017 ranged between 6 and 8 percent.
Table 1 provides a listing of the rankings for the top 100 counties where the most immigrants with pending court cases resided. Also listed in Table 1 is the backlog at the end of December, and the percentage change in these numbers during the past seven months.
To view the number of residents as of the end of December 2017 with pending court cases for each county, as well as county subdivision, go to TRAC's web mapping application. Similar numbers, but by Immigration Court hearing location and nationality can be found in TRAC's backlog tool.
 Address information was available for 660,072 of these cases.
 While the county government in Middlesex County was abolished in the 1990s, it continues to be used by the U.S. Census as it describes a state district for court and other purposes. Lowell is its largest city and along with Cambridge was its former county seat.