Latest Immigration Court Numbers, as of August 2012

ICE Requests for Deportation Orders Down 2.2 Percent in August

Table 1. ICE Deportation Filings,
August 2012
New filings 17,278
% change previous month* -2.2%
% change filing rate FY 2011 -12.7%
% change filing rate FY 2010 -18.9%
* adjusted to equalize workdays in month

The latest available data from the Immigration Courts show that during August 2012 the government reported 17,278 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 2.2 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 12.7 percent from levels in FY 2011, and has fallen 16 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 August 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 Higher in August

Table 2. Deportation Orders, August 2012
New deportation orders* 10,095
% change previous month** 26.9%
% change filing rate FY 2011 -24.2%
% change filing rate FY 2010 -26.7%
* includes removal and voluntary departure orders
** adjusted to equalize workdays in month

During August 2012 ICE was successful in obtaining 10,095 new deportation orders from Immigration Judges. This number includes both removal and voluntary departure orders. As shown in Table 2, this was 26.9 percent more orders than the number ICE obtained during July. However, July numbers were unusually low. Compared to June, August figures were higher but only up by 2.9 percent.

Deportation orders issued by the Immigration Courts started falling in 2010, but the sharpest declines occurred this year. August 2012 orders have fallen 24.2 percent from the average monthly number of deportation orders issued during FY 2011, and are 26.7 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 August 2012[1].

Immigration Court Backlog, Wait Times Keep Rising

Table 3. Immigration Backlog, August 2012
Court backlog 322,681
% change previous month 0.7%
% change end FY 2011 8.4%
% change end previous FY 22.8%

Despite the fact that new court filings are down over prior years, 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 August the backlog grew an addition 0.7 percent and reached the all-time high of 322,681 cases — up 8.4 percent since the end of September 2011. The backlog is now 22.8 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 200 days on average — or more than an additional month longer for decisions than last year. Relief orders took over two years (777 days) on average thus far in FY 2012, nearly two months (54 days) longer than last year.

Table 4. Immigration Court Wait and Processing Times, August 2012
Case Status Average Number of Days
FY 2011 FY 2012
through July through August
Removal orders 165 197 200
Voluntary departure orders 327 354 357
Terminations 470 532 535
Relief granted 723 772 777
Prosecutorial Discretion (PD) closures n/a 833 846
Average days cases have been waiting 489 528 529

Further, unclosed cases now in the Court's backlog have already been waiting on average nearly a year and a half (529 days) and typically will need to wait considerably longer before they are resolved. Average wait times increased by over a month (40 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 August 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 August 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.

Cases Processed Under ICE Prosecutorial Discretion in August

Table 5. Prosecutorial Discretion Closures
Month Closures
August 2012 1,272
July 2012 1,567
June 2012 1,103
May 2012 1,138
April 2012 943
March 2012 1,002
Total during FY 2012 8,523

August saw fewer prosecutorial discretion (PD) closures than occurred the previous month -- 1,272 during August. In contrast, the case-by-case court records show that there were 1,567 PD closures reported during July. As shown in Table 5, this is still up from 1,103 such closures in June and 1,138 closures during May.

The monthly trends show that PD closures are continuing and, as yet, shows no signs of letting up. Overall PD closures this year through the end of August numbered 8,523. This represented about 2.9 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 August were taking on average 846 days, more than 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 was 833 days, up from 803 days on average for June.

The Los Angeles Immigration Court continues to lead the country with the largest number of closures under this program — 1,630, up from 1,236 at the end of July. The San Francisco Immigration Court continues in second place with 701 PD closures overall, up from 635 in July. The Denver Immigration Court has slipped to third place with 681 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 August 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.