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What Will It Take to Eliminate the Immigration Court Backlog?

February 18, 2024 (1 min read)

Donald Kerwin, Brendan Kerwin, JMHS, CMS, January 29, 2024

"This paper examines the staffing needs of the US Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), as it seeks to eliminate an immigration court backlog, which approached 2.5 million pending cases at the end of fiscal year (FY) 2023. A previous study by the Center for Migration Studies of New York (CMS) attributed the backlog to systemic, long-neglected problems in the broader US immigration system. This paper provides updated estimates of the number of immigration judges (IJs) and “judge teams” (IJ teams) needed to eliminate the backlog over ten and five years based on different case receipt and completion scenarios. It also introduces a data tool that will permit policymakers, administrators and researchers to make their own estimates of IJ team hiring needs based on changing case receipt and completion data. Finally, the paper outlines the pressing need for reform of the US immigration system, including a well-resourced, robust, and independent court system, particularly in light of record “encounters” of migrants at US borders in FY 2022 and 2023."