Immigration Court Case Completion Times Jump as Delays Lengthen
Not surprisingly, Immigration Court closures and delays in hearings for courts that are conducting hearings have drastically reduced the number of completed cases for the first two months of this fiscal year as compared with prior years at the same time.
New cases continue to drastically outpace case completions. In October and November 2020, the Immigration Courts received 29,758 new filings. This is fewer filings than usual, but still almost twice the 15,990 cases they completed.
As a result, the court's active backlog at the end of November 2020 reached 1,281,586. This is up 18,821 cases in just the last two months. Adding to the court's workload are not only new filings, but previously closed cases that have been reopened, remanded for reconsideration, or otherwise placed back on the court's docket.
Disposition times for closed cases have also shot up this year. Cases disposed of in FY 2020 took on average 460 days. During the first two months of FY 2021, the courts disposed of a much smaller number of cases, but the disposition times were much longer at an average of 755 days—or 64 percent longer. See Figure 1. The disposition time for a case is the number of calendar days between the date the Notice to Appear (NTA) was issued and the date the immigration judge reached a decision or otherwise closed the case.
Figure 1. Average Days for Immigration Court Case Completions, FY 1998 - 2021 (October-November 2020)
(Click for larger image)
The top ten Immigration Courts with the most case completions thus far in FY 2021 are shown in Table 1. These ten courts accounted for four out of every ten closures. The Baltimore Immigration Court was the most active with 955 case closures. The average number of days it took to complete cases in Baltimore in the first two months of FY 2021 was 1,282, much longer than the national average of 755 days. San Francisco was in second place with 890 case closures, followed by Miami with 774. Los Angeles and Orlando were in fourth and fifth place. See Table 1.
The longest disposition times were found in the Cleveland Immigration Court where it took on average 1,617 days. As expected, Immigration Courts that took the shortest time tended to be courts that handled detained dockets. However, the courts with the lowest completion times were Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands (20 average days) and Hagatna, Guam (23 average days). But these courts handled few cases—just 1 case in Saipan and 4 cases in Hagatna. See Table 2.
Table 1. Disposition Times for Each Immigration Court (October-November 2020)
Table 2. Disposition Times for Each Immigration Court, FY 2021 (October-November 2020) )
 Note that cases in the court's active backlog have already waited even longer - an average of 849 days. Most will wait even longer before their hearing is scheduled. This means that average completion times will in all likelihood lengthen as time goes on.
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