Latest Immigration Court Numbers, as of November 2012

ICE Requests for Deportation Orders Down 25% from Last Year's Pace

Table 1. ICE Deportation Filings,
November 2012
New filings 14,926
% change previous month* -5.7%
% change filing rate FY 2012 -24.8%
% change filing rate FY 2011 -27.4%
* adjusted to equalize workdays in month

The latest available data from the Immigration Courts show that during November 2012 the government reported 14,926 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 5.7 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 November 2012. For example, when the latest month's ICE court filings are compared with average monthly filings in prior years, the recent activity was down 24.8 percent from levels in FY 2012, and had fallen 27.4 percent from monthly filings during FY 2011 (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 September, 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 November 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.

Proportion of Individuals Ordered To Leave Country Has Fallen Precipitously

Table 2. Deportation Orders, November 2012
New deportation orders* 9,827
% change previous month** -9.9%
% change filing rate FY 2012 -8.7%
% change filing rate FY 2011 -26.2%
* includes removal and voluntary departure orders
** adjusted to equalize workdays in month

During November 2012 ICE was successful in obtaining 9,827 new deportation orders from Immigration Judges. This number includes both removal and voluntary departure orders. As shown in Table 2, this was 9.9 percent lower than the number that ICE obtained last month.

Not only are the number of deportation orders down, but the proportion of closures resulting in removal has fallen precipitously. During the first two months of FY 2013 only 56.3 percent of Immigration Court closures resulted in a removal or voluntary departure order. In the remainder of the cases (43.7%), the individual was allowed to remain in the country. This is by far the lowest removal percentage seen since TRAC's systematic tracking began in 1998. For example, in FY 1998 74.3 percent of all court closures resulted in deportation orders, and just two years ago (FY 2011) the rate was 70.2 percent.

Deportation orders issued by the Immigration Courts started falling in 2010. While deportation orders had risen slightly in October, this appears to have been only a one-month blip. November 2012 orders fell 9.9 percent from October's numbers. It was also down 8.7 percent from the average monthly number of deportation orders issued during FY 2012, and 26.2 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 November 2012[1].

Immigration Court Backlog Falls Slightly Again in November, But Wait Times Inch Up

Table 3. Immigration Backlog, November 2012
Court backlog 321,041
% change previous month -0.2%
% change end FY 2012 -1.2%
% change end FY 2011 7.9%

The continued fall in new Immigration Court filings resulted in the Court backlog slightly dropping again in November. Last month (October) was the first time the backlog had fallen in years. As shown in Table 3, during November the backlog shrunk by 0.2 percent to 321,041 cases. However, the backlog is still 7.9 percent higher than it was at the end of September 2011, and 22.2 percent higher than at the end of September 2010.

Changes in processing and wait times were mixed. The average number of days for cases to get resolved over this period are shown in Table 4. Cases resulting in removal orders took 261 days on average, below the 270 days at the end of October — but more than two additional months longer for decisions than at the end of September. Relief orders took over two years (869 days) on average in November, lower than in October, but nearly three months (88 days) longer than the average last year.

Table 4. Immigration Court Wait and Processing Times, November 2012
Case Status Average Number of Days
FY 2011 FY 2012 FY 2013
through September through October through November
Removal orders 165 197 200 203 270 261
Voluntary departure orders 327 354 357 363 548 518
Terminations 470 532 535 540 562 561
Relief granted 723 772 777 781 891 869
Prosecutorial Discretion (PD) closures n/a 833 846 864 866 875
Average days cases have been waiting 489 528 529 531 532 538

Further, unclosed cases now in the Court's backlog have already been waiting on average nearly a year and a half (538 days) and typically will need to wait considerably longer before they are resolved. Average wait times continue to inch up each month despite the small decline in the backlog.

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 November 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 November 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 Up Again During November

Table 5. Prosecutorial Discretion Closures
Month Closures
November 2012 1,408
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 12,406

This past month saw a rise again in the pace of prosecutorial discretion (PD) closures. The increase seen last month to 1,382 in October continued in November and rose slightly to 1,408. The case-by-case court records show that November PD closures are also higher than the 1,093 closures reported during September. 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 November numbered 12,406. 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 875 days across all months the program has been in effect, inching up by an additional nine 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 — 2,761, up from 2,322 at the end of October. The San Francisco Immigration Court continues in second place with 913 PD closures overall, up from 838 in October. The Denver Immigration Court is still in third place with 759 PD closures compared with 726 in October.

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 November 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.