Latest Immigration Court Numbers, as of January 2013

ICE Requests for Deportation Orders Rise Slightly from Historic Lows

Table 1. ICE Deportation Filings,
January 2013
New filings 15,174
% change previous month* 1.9%
% change filing rate FY 2012 -23.7%
% change filing rate FY 2011 -26.2%
* adjusted to equalize workdays in month

The latest available data from the Immigration Courts show that during January 2013 the government reported 15,174 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) filings seeking deportation orders. Such filings are down 23.7 percent through the first four months of FY 2013 (which began in October) when compared with average monthly filings during FY 2012, according to the case-by-case information analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC). Requests for deportation orders in January were up slightly (1.9 percent) from the December figure (see Table 1).

These latest figures show declines which began after 2009. For example, monthly filings — while down 23.7 percent since FY 2012 — are down 26.2 percent from levels in FY 2011, and have fallen 28.7 percent from monthly filings during FY 2009.

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 January 2013[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.

Number of Removal Orders Shows Modest Increase in January

Table 2. Deportation Orders, January 2013
New deportation orders* 9,352
% change previous month** 13.2%
% change filing rate FY 2012 -13.1%
% change filing rate FY 2011 -29.8%
* includes removal and voluntary departure orders
** adjusted to equalize workdays in month

During January 2013, ICE was successful in obtaining 9,352 new deportation orders from Immigration Judges. This number includes both removal and voluntary departure orders. As shown in Table 2, this was 13.2 percent higher than the previous month's number, when ICE had obtained 8,262.

While the number of deportation orders has risen, the proportion of closures resulting in removal has remained very low. During the first four months of FY 2013, only 56.7 percent of Immigration Court closures resulted in a removal or voluntary departure order. In the remainder of the cases (43.3 percent), the individual was allowed to remain in the country. This fiscal year continues to have, 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 have generally been falling since 2010. This month's increase is the first since October; in both November and December 2012 orders fell sharply. Despite the increase, January orders were down 13.1 percent from the average monthly number of deportation orders issued during FY 2012, and were 29.8 percent lower than the monthly average during FY 2011.

As yet there has been no discernable impact on actual ICE deportation activity. Despite fewer removal orders, ICE reports that its deportations have continued to climb. Recent case-by-case data obtained by TRAC from ICE under the Freedom of Information Act suggests that ICE may increasingly be bypassing the Immigration Courts, deporting individuals without Court action using other provisions of the law (see TRAC's August 13 report).

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 January 2013[1].

Immigration Court Backlog Continues to Inch Upward in January

Table 3. Immigration Backlog, January 2013
Court backlog 323,725
% change previous month 0.3%
% change end FY 2012 -0.4%
% change end FY 2011 8.8%

With increases in both filings and closings, the Immigration Court backlog in January continued to inch upward, following a slight increase in December. As shown in Table 3, during January the backlog grew by 0.3 percent to 323,725 cases. While slightly (-0.4 percent) below the historical backlog high reached in September 2012, the current backlog is still 8.8 percent higher than it was at the end of September 2011, and 23.2 percent higher than at the end of September 2010.

There is often month-to-month fluctuation in processing and wait times, but in general delays were up significantly over levels observed at the end of September 2012. 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, one day shorter than the previous month, taking roughly two additional months longer for decisions than at the end of September. Relief orders took over two years (839 days) on average in January, a figure representing a waiting time nearly two weeks shorter than in December, but still 58 days longer than the average for FY 2012.

Table 4. Immigration Court Wait and Processing Times, January 2013
Case Status Average Number of Days
FY 2011 FY 2012 FY 2013
through November through December through January
Removal orders 165 203 261 262 261
Voluntary departure orders 327 363 518 498 481
Terminations 470 540 561 555 558
Relief granted 723 781 869 852 839
Prosecutorial Discretion (PD) closures n/a 864 875 885 899
Average days cases have been waiting 489 531 538 545 550

Further, unclosed cases now in the Court's backlog have already been waiting on average about a year and a half (550 days) and typically will need to wait considerably longer before they are resolved. Average wait times continue to creep upward each month.

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 January 2013.

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 January 2013[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.

Rebound Seen in New ICE Prosecutorial Discretion Closures

Table 5. Prosecutorial Discretion Closures
Month Closures
January 2013 1,392
December 2012 1,001
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
March 2012 1,002
October 2011 - February 2012 1,498
Total through January 2013 14,799

January also saw 1,392 new prosecutorial discretion (PD) closures of cases before the Immigration Courts, a significant increase from December and a figure in line with the number of PD closures in October and November. Table 5 shows monthly figures since the program began.

Overall there were a cumulative 14,799 PD closures through the end of January, representing about 4.6 percent of the Court backlog.

It is taking a long time for PD closures to work their way through the system. As of the end of January, such closures were taking on average 899 days across all months the program has been in effect, rising by two weeks this past month. This means that the latest closures are taking a particularly long time. For example, those closed just in January involved court filings from, on average, nearly three years ago, or 1,021 days (see earlier Table 4).

The Los Angeles Immigration Court continues to lead the country with the largest number of closures under this program —3,758, up from 3,150 at the end of December. The San Francisco Immigration Court continues in second place with 983 PD closures overall, up from 946 in December. The New York City Immigration Court is now in third place with 829 PD closures, rising from 750 in December, and surpassing Denver which had 800 PD closures. Compared in percentage terms, for those courts which had a backlog of at least a thousand pending cases, the San Diego Court led the nation with 22.7 percent of its backlog closed under the PD program. The Charlotte, NC Court was second with 16.8 percent of its backlog closed, while the Portland, OR Court was third with 15.9 percent.

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 January 2013[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.