Latest Immigration Court Numbers, as of September 2012

ICE Requests for Deportation Orders Steady Last Month, Down Overall for Year

Table 1. ICE Deportation Filings,
September 2012
New filings 17,276
% change previous month* 0.0%
% change filing rate FY 2011 -12.9%
% change filing rate FY 2010 -16.0%
* adjusted to equalize workdays in month

The latest available data from the Immigration Courts show that during September 2012 the government reported 17,276 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 is little changed compared to filings in the previous month.

These latest figures show that the slide in ICE filings that have been taking place since 2009 continued during 2012. For example, when the latest month's ICE court filings are compared with average monthly files in prior years, the recent activity was down 12.9 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).

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 September 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 Only Slightly Lower in September

Table 2. Deportation Orders, September 2012
New deportation orders* 10,056
% change previous month** -0.4%
% change filing rate FY 2011 -24.5%
% change filing rate FY 2010 -26.9%
* includes removal and voluntary departure orders
** adjusted to equalize workdays in month

During September 2012 ICE was successful in obtaining 10,056 new deportation orders from Immigration Judges. This number includes both removal and voluntary departure orders. As shown in Table 2, this was almost the same number that ICE obtained during August.

Deportation orders issued by the Immigration Courts started falling in 2010, but the sharpest declines occurred this year. September 2012 orders have fallen 24.5 percent from the average monthly number of deportation orders issued during FY 2011, and are 26.9 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). 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 September 2012[1].

Immigration Court Backlog, Wait Times Keep Rising

Table 3. Immigration Backlog, September 2012
Court backlog 325,044
% change previous month 0.7%
% change end FY 2011 9.2%
% change end previous FY 23.7%

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 September the backlog grew an addition 0.7 percent and reached the all-time high of 325,044 cases — up 9.2 percent since the end of September 2011. The backlog is now 23.7 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 203 days on average — or more than an additional month longer for decisions than last year. Relief orders took over two years (781 days) on average in FY 2012, nearly two months (58 days) longer than last year.

Table 4. Immigration Court Wait and Processing Times, September 2012
Case Status Average Number of Days
FY 2011 FY 2012
through September
Removal orders 165 197 200 203
Voluntary departure orders 327 354 357 363
Terminations 470 532 535 540
Relief granted 723 772 777 781
Prosecutorial Discretion (PD) closures n/a 833 846 864
Average days cases have been waiting 489 528 529 531

Further, unclosed cases now in the Court's backlog have already been waiting on average nearly a year and a half (531 days) and typically will need to wait considerably longer before they are resolved. Average wait times increased by over a month (42 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 September 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 September 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.

Pace of New Closures under ICE Prosecutorial Discretion Slackens in September

Table 5. Prosecutorial Discretion Closures
Month Closures
September 2012 1,093
August 2012 1,272
July 2012 1,567
June 2012 1,103
May 2012 1,138
April 2012 943
Total during FY 2012 9,616

This past month saw fewer prosecutorial discretion (PD) closures than occurred the previous month — 1,093 during September. In contrast, the case-by-case court records show that there were 1,272 PD closures reported during August. As shown in Table 5, this is down from 1,567 such closures in July and 1,103 closures during June.

The monthly trends show that PD closures are continuing although the pace has begun to slacken. Overall PD closures this year through the end of September numbered 9,616. This represented about 3.2 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 September were taking on average 864 days for the year, almost three 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 that took place just during September was 1,004 days.

The Los Angeles Immigration Court continues to lead the country with the largest number of closures under this program — 1,990, up from 1,630 at the end of August. The San Francisco Immigration Court continues in second place with 765 PD closures overall, up from 701 in August. The Denver Immigration Court is still in third place with 700 PD closures compared with 681 in August.

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 September 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.