Even as Immigration and Customs Enforcement ramps up their search for undocumented immigrants and Congress sends $600 million to the border to increase patrols, there’s a fundamental problem: the enormous backlog of immigration cases in the courts. Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), which well, tracks the backlog has released the most recent total: as of mid June, there were 247,922 pending immigration cases in U.S. courts. Wait times for getting a case heard are also up, with those in California continuing to linger the longest: an average of 643 days. Why are the courts so backed up? TRAC offers several possible explanations:
- Changes in enforcement: immigration cases may be increasing simply because ICE is detaining more immigrants. This explanation applies more to cases introduced in 2009; as new cases have actually gone down this year.
- Cases may be growing more complex and therefore harder to resolve as new decisions come down from higher courts that impact how a case should be decided.
- And most likely of all, there simply aren’t enough judges. As of March, one out of every six judge positions was vacant. Only five have been filled since.
Just as a side note, can you guess which nationalities face the longest average wait times for getting their immigration cases heard? I would not have known: 1) Armenians (958 days); 2) Indonesians (774 days); 3) Lebanese (709 days); 4 )Albanians (674 days); and 5) Iranians (603 days). The average overall wait is 459 days.