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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

Texas Gov. Abbott restricts movement of undocumented migrants

Photo: Tamir Kalifa via Getty Images

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Wednesday barred people from providing ground transportation to migrants detained by Customs Border Patrol for illegally crossing the border — a move that gives the state's Department of Public Safety (DPS) authority to stop and reroute "any vehicle upon reasonable suspicion" of violating the order.

Why it matters: Abbott cites the recent surge in COVID-19 cases as the basis for the order, though the governor has refused to mandate masks in the state. The move comes amid record crossings at the southern border.

Updated 9 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Congress passes $2.1B Capitol security funding bill

U.S. Capitol police officers testify during a House select committee hearing on the Jan. 6 Capitol riot on July 27. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Pool via Xinhua

A $2.1 billion Capitol security funding bill is heading to President Biden for his signature after the House and Senate passed the legislation on Thursday.

Why it matters: The legislation provides funding for the Capitol Police, the National Guard and other agencies to cover the costs incurred during the Jan. 6 riot.

Biden details new vaccination initiatives as COVID cases surge

Joe Biden. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

President Biden detailed several new initiatives on Thursday to get more Americans vaccinated and slow the spread of the Delta variant.

Why it matters: The plan outlines aggressive next steps from the federal government as COVID-19 cases surge across the country due to the contagious Delta variant and as demand for vaccines has tapered off.

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