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Immigration Law

The Hidden Impact of Removal Proceedings on Rural Communities: TRAC

TRAC, Apr. 9, 2020

"Although the Immigration Courts with the largest backlogs of cases are located in large cities, the latest Immigration Court records show that when adjusted for population, many rural counties have higher rates of residents in removal proceedings than urban counties. In fact, of the top 100 US counties with the highest rates of residents in removal proceedings, nearly six in ten (59%) are rural. In these communities, residents facing deportation may find themselves in rural "legal deserts" where there are few qualified immigration attorneys, longer travel times to court, and high rates of poverty.

TRAC recently mapped the Immigration Court's current active backlog-over 1.1 million cases-to show the number of residents in each county who are awaiting their day in court. In this follow-on report, TRAC used the same data set to map the proportion of residents ("rate") with pending immigration cases as a fraction of total residents.

Two sets of maps accompany this report on TRAC's website. Particularly striking in the maps is how many counties in Southern California and the New York City-Boston corridor, which are prominent in the map of the number of cases, look more typical once population is taken into account. Also striking is how counties in the Great Plains regions from Southwest Minnesota to western Oklahoma pop off the map as places where higher percentages of the community are facing deportation proceedings today.

TRAC also identified 24 counties that stand out as 'hot spots' because they show both very high numbers of residents currently in removal proceedings and very high proportions of residents in removal proceedings. Many of these counties are located in southern Florida, the greater New York City region, and the greater Washington, D.C. region. Notably, all 24 'hot spot' counties are urban counties.

The Immigration Court data used in this report was obtained and analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University in response to its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR).

To read the full report on the geographic distribution of the Immigration Court's backlog, including specifics for counties making the top 100 list for either of these two measures, go to: https://trac.syr.edu/immigration/reports/602/"