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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.

Go deeper

Mike Allen, author of AM
Sep 22, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Report: U.S. releasing Haitian migrants on "very large scale"

Migrants' encampment along the International Bridge near the Rio Grande in Del Rio, Texas, on Tuesday. Photo: Julio Cortez/AP

Many Haitian migrants camped in the Texas border town of Del Rio are being released in the U.S., two federal officials tell AP.

Driving the news: Haitians have been freed on a "very, very large scale" in recent days, according to one U.S. official, who put the figure in the thousands.

Updated Sep 23, 2021 - Politics & Policy

DHS seeks operator for Guantánamo Bay migrant detention facility amid Del Rio surge

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas. Photo: Graeme Jennings/Pool via Getty Images

The Biden administration is looking for a private contractor to oversee a migrant detention facility at the U.S. naval base at Guantánamo Bay, according to a recent government listing.

Yes, but: A Department of Homeland Security spokesperson said in an email on Wednesday night that the DHS "is not and will not send Haitian nationals being encountered at the southwest border to the Migrant Operations Center (MOC) in Guantanamo Bay." 

Schumer: Deportation of Haitian asylum-seekers "defies common sense"

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer arrives for a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol, Sept.20. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday condemned the Biden administration's deportation of Haitian immigrants, saying the move "defies common sense."

The big picture: The U.S. is deporting the immigrants under the Trump-era Title 42 policy that Schumer called "hateful and xenophobic." The government has used Title 42 to accelerate deportations during the pandemic.

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