Latest Immigration Court Numbers, as of October 2012

ICE Requests for Deportation Orders Continue to Slide

Table 1. ICE Deportation Filings,
October 2012
New filings 15,836
% change previous month* -8.3%
% change filing rate FY 2011 -20.2%
% change filing rate FY 2010 -23.0%
* adjusted to equalize workdays in month

The latest available data from the Immigration Courts show that during October 2012 the government reported 15,836 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), filings are down 8.3 percent compared to filings in the previous month.

These latest figures show that the slide in ICE filings that has been taking place since 2009 continued during October 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 20.2 percent from levels in FY 2011, and had fallen 23.0 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 year 2013 beginning in October, 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 October 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.

Case Completions Rise with Court Deportation Orders Up 8.5 Percent in October

Table 2. Deportation Orders, October 2012
New deportation orders* 10,911
% change previous month** 8.5%
% change filing rate FY 2011 1.4%
% change filing rate FY 2010 -18.1%
* includes removal and voluntary departure orders
** adjusted to equalize workdays in month

During October 2012 ICE was successful in obtaining 10,911 new deportation orders from Immigration Judges. This number includes both removal and voluntary departure orders. As shown in Table 2, this was 8.5 percent higher than the number that ICE obtained during September.

Deportation orders issued by the Immigration Courts started falling in 2010. Whether this month's increase is just a one-month blip, or marks a reversal in this long term trend is too soon to tell. October 2012 orders were up 1.4 percent from the average monthly number of deportation orders issued during FY 2012, but are still 18.1 percent lower than the monthly average during FY 2011.

It is also too soon to tell what the impact will be on actual ICE deportation activity. Actual deportations despite fewer removal orders had 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 October 2012[1].

Immigration Court Backlog Falls Slightly for the First Time in Years

Table 3. Immigration Backlog, October 2012
Court backlog 321,633
% change previous month -1.0%
% change end FY 2011 8.1%
% change end FY 2010 22.4%

The continued fall in new Immigration Court filings combined with a jump in case closures during October resulted in the Court backlog dropping for the first time in years. As shown in Table 3, during October the backlog shrunk by 1.0 percent to 321,633 cases. However, the backlog is still 8.1 percent higher than it was at the end of September 2011, and 22.4 percent higher than at the end of September 2010.

Processing and wait time, however, continued to increase. The average number of days for cases to get resolved over this period are shown in Table 4. Cases resulting in removal orders took 270 days on average — or more than two additional months longer for decisions than last year. Relief orders took over two years (891 days) on average in the first month of FY 2013, nearly three months (110 days) longer than the average last year.

Table 4. Immigration Court Wait and Processing Times, October 2012
Case Status Average Number of Days
FY 2011 FY 2012 FY 2013
through September through October
Removal orders 165 197 200 203 270
Voluntary departure orders 327 354 357 363 548
Terminations 470 532 535 540 562
Relief granted 723 772 777 781 891
Prosecutorial Discretion (PD) closures n/a 833 846 864 866
Average days cases have been waiting 489 528 529 531 532

Further, unclosed cases now in the Court's backlog have already been waiting on average nearly a year and a half (532 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 September 2011.

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 October 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 October 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.

New Closures under ICE Prosecutorial Discretion Up in October

Table 5. Prosecutorial Discretion Closures
Month Closures
October 2012 1,382
September 2012 1,093
August 2012 1,272
July 2012 1,567
June 2012 1,103
May 2012 1,138
April 2012 943
Total through October 2012 10,998

This past month saw a rise in prosecutorial discretion (PD) closures. The drop seen last month to only 1,093 in September reversed during October and rose slightly to 1,382. The case-by-case court records show that October PD closures are also slightly higher than the 1,272 closures reported during August. However, as shown in Table 5, this is down from 1,567 such closures in July. The July monthly figure was the monthly highpoint for PD closures during FY 2012.

Overall PD cumulative closures through the end of October numbered 10,998. This represented about 3.6 percent of the Court backlog as of the end of September 2011.

It is taking a long time for PD closures to work their way through the system. Such closures as of the end of October were taking on average 866 days across all months the program has been in effect, inching up by an additional two days this past month. (see earlier Table 4).

The Los Angeles Immigration Court continues to lead the country with the largest number of closures under this program — 2,322, up from 1,990 at the end of September. The San Francisco Immigration Court continues in second place with 838 PD closures overall, up from 765 in September. The Denver Immigration Court is still in third place with 726 PD closures compared with 700 in September.

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 October 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.