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CRS on U.S. Immigration Courts and the Pending Cases Backlog

April 28, 2022 (1 min read)

CRS, Apr. 25, 2022

"... EOIR has become increasingly unable to adjudicate in a timely manner the hundreds of thousands of cases it receives from DHS each year and, as a result, immigration courts have a large and growing backlog of pending cases. At the end of the first quarter of FY2022, the backlog reached an all-time high of 1.5 million cases, with 578 IJs on staff to adjudicate them. Because of the backlog, some individuals must wait years to have their cases adjudicated. Some lawmakers have raised concerns about whether the backlog encourages unauthorized migration and the extent to which those awaiting removal proceedings fail to appear for their hearings. Others have questioned whether noncitizens in removal proceedings— particularly those without legal representation—receive due process. Those in removal proceedings may secure representation at their own expense but they do not have the right to government-provided counsel. Factors associated with the growth in the immigration courts backlog are both internal and external to EOIR. These include immigration court resources and staffing, increased DHS interior and border enforcement, changing migrant arrival patterns at the U.S.-Mexico border, and impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic. EOIR has responded to its growing caseload by increasing IJ hiring substantially in recent years. Nevertheless, CRS analysis projects that at current staffing levels, the backlog will continue to grow. ..."