Jun 14, 2021 - Politics & Policy

By the numbers: The building migrant backlog

Reproduced from TRAC, Syracuse University; Chart: Axios Visuals

There are now more than 1.3 million cases awaiting a decision from an immigration judge — double the caseload from 2017 — to determine whether migrants can legally stay in the U.S., according to newly released data reviewed by Axios.

Why it matters: The rapidly growing backlog is another sign of a broken immigration system. Migrants have been waiting an average of nearly 950 days for a court decision — two-and-a-half years of living in limbo.

  • The long wait times can also be a lure for some people considering crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.
  • While they wait to have their case heard, they likely will be allowed to wait and work in the U.S. before any potential deportation.

By the numbers: So far this fiscal year, immigration courts have taken on nearly two times as many cases as they completed, with 127,000 new cases, according to data from Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), which analyzes millions of case records.

  • More than 290,000 Guatemalans are currently waiting in the immigration court backlog, as well as over a quarter-million Hondurans.
  • Los Angeles County has the most residents with pending deportation cases at 70,560, TRAC assistant professor Austin Kocher noted. That's followed by Harris County, Texas; Queens County, New York; Miami-Dade County, Florida; and Dallas County, Texas.
  • Just 21% of immigrants — including unaccompanied children — had legal representation when they were ordered deported, according to Kocher.
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