Before break, immigration courts struggled to maintain caseload

Over the summer, immigration courts took a short break to access their cases and apply prosecutorial discretion. The goal was to do away with frivolous deportation cases, especially ones dealing with non-criminal individuals. After this review period, officials hoped that both local and federal courts would run more efficiently and have a better chance at keeping up with their work.

However, a federal official investigating the immigration courts in the years leading up to this hiatus uncovered systemic and clerical issues that indicated the courts were in real trouble — and it is unclear if these matters have been addressed since the break.

From 2006 to 2010, the number of new immigration cases increased from 308,642 to 325,326; and at the same time, efficiency in completing these cases plummeted 11 percent. Federal officials hired new immigration judges to combat the issue, but many of them were inexperienced and required extensive training to be fit for the job; an entirely different issue from court efficiency which calls into question the equality of justice that undocumented immigrants received during their day in court.

Investigators branded the record-keeping of immigration courts as “flawed;” so flawed, in fact, that it was tough for officials to make conclusions about the work flow of the courts. It remains to be seen if these flaws were corrected following the period of prosecutorial discretion this summer. Many deportation cases were backlogged for three years before the hiatus, and if the clerical side of things hasn’t been fixed, the immigration courts could descend into madness yet again, and soon.

Source: Associated Press, “Immigration judges behind on caseload,” Pete Yost, Nov. 1, 2012