Crisis in the Courts: Is the Backlogged U.S. Immigration Court System at Its Breaking Point?

Marissa Esthimer
Date of Publication: 
October, 2019
Source Organization: 
Migration Policy Institute

There were more than one million removal cases awaiting trial in U.S. immigration courts as of August 2019. “Crisis in the Courts: Is the Backlogged U.S. Immigration Court System at Its Breaking Point?” published by the Migration Policy Institute explains how the immigration courts struggle to process the skyrocketing number of asylum cases. At the time of the report, proceedings lasted an average of 700 days per case. Unlike other immigration enforcement agencies, such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the immigration courts have not received an increase in resources to permit the hiring of more judges and staff. The immigration courts have been overwhelmed with cases due to the Bush and Obama administration policies to prioritize deportations from the interior of the country and a rapid increase in new arrivals between 2017 and 2019, particularly of Central American families seeking asylum. The report concludes by offering policy suggestions to improve the immigration court system. For instance, the authors suggest that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services play a more active role in determining the merits of an asylum case before sending the case to the immigration court system. They also recommend the hiring of more immigration judges to keep pace with the growing caseload. (Mia Fasano for The ILC Public Education Institute)

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Esthimer, M. (2019). Crisis in the courts: Is the backlogged U.S. immigration court system at its breaking point? Migration Information Source. Retrieved from