TRAC Data Indicates Growing Backlogs in Immigration Courts
By: Helena Coric*
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) continues to experience backlog in its data system. Government enforcement data obtained from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) indicates that the current number of pending cases is up 23 percent, which is 82 percent higher than in the past decade.
Considering the potential problems the backlog creates, one questions why this is happening. The main reasons include: the Justice Department’s inability to hire an adequate number of new judges and the simple growth of incoming cases. While new judges are being hired, unfortunately the new hires are not keeping up with the turnover. Prior vacancies and existing budget cuts do not help the situation. Across the board, states are facing different circumstances depending on internal local dynamics. As pending cases are rising on the national level, some states are fortunate to be facing declines. Not only do wait times vary, but as one court may be losing judges another may be gaining new ones.
The TRAC data provides a useful tool to see the exact severity and current situation by state and even nationality for pending cases. For example, the court in Arlington, Virginia currently faces 9,867 pending cases total, of which 3,064 are of El Salvadoran nationality, a growing ethnicity group in the region. In the case of Maryland, it is confronting 5, 074 pending cases of which 1, 379 are from El Salvador. When comparing the national level to that of larger states such as New York, California and Texas, the pending El Salvadorian national cases in the tri-state Washington D.C. area are substantially lower.
The TRAC interactive tool allows one to become more familiar with the immigration process affecting one’s own community, rather than just hearing about it as some obscure issue reserved for the federal government. Furthermore, having such data available for the general public may also serve to put some pressure on officials to remedy the backlog problem sooner rather than later.
*Helena Coric is an Intern at Beach-Oswald Immigration Law Associates, P.C.