Drop in ICE Deportation Filings in Immigration Court

According to the latest Immigration Court data — current through the end of June 2012 — the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) filings for deportation orders is down this fiscal year. New deportation proceedings have been steadily falling since FY 2009 when ICE filed 255,238 requests for deportation orders.

During the first nine months of FY 2012, court records show a total of 142,117 ICE new requests have been filed. If the fourth quarter rate of filings continues at the same pace, it is estimated that filings will reach only 212,749 this year once all late reports are in. This would represent a drop of 10 percent — more than 24,000 cases — from the previous year, and mmore than 42,000 fewer than the number of ICE deportation order requests made during FY 2009.

Figure 1. Deportation Orders Sought in Immigration Court
Deportation Orders Sought in Immigration Court

Trends in ICE filings for deportation orders over the past twenty years are shown in Figure 1. These figures were compiled by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University based on court records obtained by TRAC under the Freedom of Information Act from the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR). The EOIR is part of the U.S. Justice Department and oversees these special administrative courts.

Impact on Actual Deportations

Because of the Immigration Court backlog and long wait times before cases are heard and decided by Immigration Judges, this year's decline in new filings will not immediately show up as a decline in actual ICE deportations. Further, under some circumstances, ICE can bypass the Immigration Courts and deport individuals without the Court's express authorization. Thus, court records will not track every individual who ultimately ends up being deported.

ICE contends that since 2009 its actual deportations have been rising, not falling. But — despite many FOIA requests — the agency has steadfastly refused to release to TRAC the needed supporting documentation. Further, those records the agency has released to TRAC do not support its claims.

Trends by Location and Nationality

While overall ICE court filings for deportation orders are down by about 10 percent so far this fiscal year, trends vary somewhat by court location. For example, in three Immigration Courts in California — Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco — filings by ICE so far this year are on pace to actually increase over last year. Also showing higher volumes thus far during FY 2012 are two additional courts in other parts of the country: Elizabeth in New Jersey and Los Fresnos in Texas.

There are at least eight Immigration Courts where the decline in ICE requests for deportation orders so far this year has been much sharper than typical declines experienced in other courts. These courts are located in New York, New Jersey, Florida, Arizona, Washington, Ohio and Puerto Rico and are listed in Table 1.

So far this year, deportation requests by ICE involving noncitizens from El Salvador, Egypt and Guatemala are also running higher than last year. At the other extreme, many nationalities have seen particularly sharp declines in ICE deportation requests. Both groups are also listed in Table 1.

Table 1. ICE Court Filings for Deportation Orders*
Immigration Courts for Which
Filings Up in FY 2012 Filings Sharply Down in FY 2012
Elizabeth (N.J.) Buffalo (N.Y.)
Los Fresnos (Texas) Cleveland (Ohio)
Los Angeles (Cal.) Guaynabo (P.R.)
San Diego (Cal.) Napanoch (N.Y.)
San Francisco (Cal.) Newark (N.J.)
  Orlando (Florida)
  Seattle (Wash.)
  Tucson (Ariz.)
Nationalities for Which
Filings Up in FY 2012 Filings Sharply Down in FY 2012
El Salvador Brazil
Egypt Colombia
Guatemala Ethiopia
  South Korea
  Sri Lanka
  Trinidad and Tobago
* through first nine months of FY 2012

TRAC developed the lists in Table 1 using projections of likely FY 2012 year-end filings. Projections, of course, are only estimates of what will actually occur; year-end filings may ultimately turn out lower or higher. To be conservative, TRAC only listed those courts and nationalities where these projected changes from previous year filings were the most pronounced. Projected figures for each court and nationality are available using TRAC's Immigration Court deportation proceedings tool which has been updated with data through the end of June 2012.