EOIR Releases Updated Immigration Court Statistics

Eliza Grinberg's picture

On May 9, 2018, the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) released immigration court statistics for the first two quarters of fiscal year 2018 [PDF version]. The publication of these statistics is part of the EOIR's new transparency initiative, which will involve “releasing immigration court data on a recurring basis.”

The statistics not only contain information for the first two quarters of fiscal year 2018, but also annual numbers regarding the immigration courts dating back to fiscal year 2008. You may see the EOIR's statistics here: [PDF version].

The EOIR news release discusses highlights from the statistics.

First, the EOIR noted that there is a downward trend in the number of case completions, notwithstanding the upward trend in new cases. The EOIR stated that this is due in large part to the reduced use of administrative closure and a dramatic increase in recalendared cases. The point about administrative closure is significant in that Attorney General Jeff Sessions is currently reviewing the scope of the authority of immigration judges to administratively close cases. You may read about this in our article on Matter of Castro-Tum, 27 I&N Dec. 187 (A.G. 2018) [PDF version] [see article].

The EOIR notes that the number of Inactive Pending Cases are expected to decrease slightly in fiscal year 2018. This would mark the first decrease “in at least ten fiscal years.” The number of removal orders in absentia in cases where an applicant sought asylum are “expected to increase by approximately 40 percent by the end of [fiscal year 2018].” The EOIR also states that the “median completion time for detained cases” is expected to decrease by 7.5 percent from fiscal year 2017, “which would mark the second year of decline in a row following nine years of increases.”

However, two trends will continue to put pressure on immigration courts. The EOIR noted that the number of defensive asylum applications, including defensive asylum applications made by aliens who passed credible fear screenings, increased “by almost 100,000” between fiscal years 2012 and 2017. However, in that same period, the number of defensive asylum applications granted increased by only about 4,000. Additionally, the number of pending unaccompanied alien children cases are projected to increase by approximately 14 percent in fiscal year 2018. The number of unaccompanied alien children cases has increased dramatically since fiscal year 2014. However, the EOIR did state that it “is adjudicating [pending unaccompanied alien children cases] at a faster rate than previous years.”

The EOIR's decision to release more statistics about pending cases is welcome news. In general, the statistics highlight the daunting nature of the EOIR's case backlog, which we discussed in an article about a recent Government Accountability Office report on the subject [see article]. Going forward, it will be important for the EOIR to find ways to work through its case backlog while ensuring that every alien facing proceedings in immigration court has a fair opportunity to present his or her case.

EOIR Releases Updated Immigration Court Statistics