Immigration Court Backlog Keeps Rising
Latest Figures as of April 2015

The number of cases awaiting resolution before the Immigration Courts climbed to a new all-time high of 445,607 as of the end of April 2015, according to very timely government court data obtained by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC). The case backlog has risen 9.2 percent since the beginning of this fiscal year when the backlog was 408,037. The backlog is 29.5 percent higher than it was at the beginning of fiscal year 2014, at which time only 344,230 cases were waiting in the Immigration Courts (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Immigration Court Backlog as of April 2015

Cases Involving Unaccompanied Children

Figure 2. Pending Workload
in Immigration Courts

While public attention has been focused on the plight of juveniles arriving at our borders and their growing numbers, unaccompanied children make up a small proportion of those impacted by the current administration's enforcement activities. Out of the total backlog of 445,607 cases at the end of April, only 70,035 or 15.7 percent were cases involving unaccompanied children. Unlike the overall court backlog, the number of pending cases involving unaccompanied children has been slowly declining, due in part to the priority on the docket given to these cases. At the end of March the backlog of these juvenile cases numbered 70,746 for a drop of over 700 just in the past month. However, the current number of these cases still is higher both in absolute and relative terms than it was last June. As TRAC reported at that time, the total number of such pending unaccompanied juvenile cases was 41,641 or 11.1 percent of the total court backlog (see Figure 2).

See TRAC's data tool on juvenile deportation proceedings for more information on the status of Immigration Court cases involving unaccompanied children.

Top Nationalities

While cases involving individuals from Mexico still comprise the single largest nationality group, the backlog of these cases has risen only 3.7 percent since the start of FY 2014. Among the top five nationalities, the highest growth rate of 142.7 percent occurred for individuals from Honduras, followed by those from El Salvador (up 92.4%) and Guatemala (62.5%). In marked contrast, the number of cases involving individuals from China in the backlog actually fell 2.4 percent over this same period (see Table 1).

Table 1. Immigration Court Backlog: Top Five Nationalities
Rank Nationality FY 2014 FY 2015 % Change
Since Start
of FY 2014
Start End April
1 Mexico 126,131 126,387 130,823 3.7%
2 El Salvador 36,161 57,379 69,567 92.4%
3 Honduras 23,733 49,279 57,602 142.7%
4 Guatemala 33,390 46,517 54,258 62.5%
5 China 27,715 27,430 27,045 -2.4%

Top States

California, Texas, and New York lead the nation with the largest numbers of backlogged immigration cases, followed by Florida and New Jersey. However, growth rates among these varied from a 63.9 percent jump in New Jersey since the beginning of fiscal year 2014, to just a 14.8 percent growth in California (see Table 2).

Table 2. Immigration Court Backlog: Top Five States
Rank Nationality FY 2014 FY 2015 % Change
Since Start
of FY 2014
Start End April
1 California 77,246 82,683 88,711 14.8%
2 Texas 48,626 72,104 76,995 58.3%
3 New York 50,818 59,230 64,247 26.4%
4 Florida 19,043 22,509 25,200 32.3%
5 New Jersey 13,825 18,967 22,661 63.9%

Full details for all nationalities, states, immigration courts and hearing locations are available in TRAC's backlog tool, now with data updated through the end of April 2015.