Featured Issue: Immigration Court Backlog and Reprioritization
The immigration courts require urgent attention to address the 1.3 million case backlog that is severely delaying resolution on all cases—with an average wait time exceeding four years—including cases that require urgent attention, such as those seeking asylum and humanitarian relief. The following resources explain how the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) can reprioritize cases on the docket by removing nonpriority matters. Additional solutions to address the systemic challenges of the immigration court can be found on AILA’s immigration court featured issues page.
July 28, 2023
- The Congressional Research Service provides an overview of trends in EOIR’s caseloads, case completions, and IJ hiring and staffing levels. It also provides CRS projections of the impact of different IJ hiring scenarios on the pending-cases backlog over the next 10 fiscal years. Based on the assumptions and averages used in the analysis, it would take 300 or more additional IJs to begin to reduce the backlog. Hiring 300 IJs, however, likely would not fully clear the backlog in the observed 10-year timeframe (i.e., through FY2033). An additional 700 IJs would be needed to fully clear the backlog by FY2032.
Representatives Urge DOJ to Restore Due Process to Removal Proceedings and Improve Docket Management Protocols
March 29, 2022
- On March 29, 2022, Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) led 40 lawmakers in calling on the DOJ to reduce the courts’ case backlog and restore due process to removal proceedings, including by imposing restrictions on virtual hearings.
June 10, 2021
- On June 10, 2021, Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) led 60 lawmakers in calling on DOJ to immediately implement a set of reforms on immigration court backlogs, regulatory and policy review, EOIR personnel, legal representation, criminal prosecutions, and the ongoing pandemic.
New York Times (Opinion): Immigration Courts Aren’t Real Courts. Time to Change That.
May 8, 2021
- The New York Times Editorial Board argues that Congress should make immigration courts independent, and that the Biden administration should undertake several shorter-term fixes to the courts to help restore impartiality and professionalism.
February 1, 2021
- In this op-ed Greg Chen and Peter Markowitz argue that DOJ leadership should reprioritize about 700,000 cases that are unnecessarily clogging the immigration court dockets.
AILA and Cardozo Law School Provide Recommendations for Removing Non-Priority Cases from the Immigration Court Backlog
February 11, 2021
- AILA's Greg Chen and Cardozo Law School's Peter Markowitz provided recommendations to DOJ and EOIR leadership on how immigration courts can use existing federal regulation and other authorities to presumptively shift cases off the docket by identifying specific categories of non-priority matters.
Peter Markowitz & Mauricio Noroña, Immigration Justice Clinic, Cardozo School of Law: Operational Mechanics for Proposed EOIR Headquarters-Led Docket Review and Refresh
- Peter Markowitz and Mauricio Norona provide a description of the categories of cases that could be defined as nonpriority matters and a statistical estimate of how many cases are in each category
March 23, 2021
- On March 23, eight senators sent a letter to Attorney General Garland recommending, among other things, that he review the court docket and systematically remove non-priority cases unless deferral would prejudice the parties.
Eighty-Two Law Professors Call on AG Garland to Use DOJ’s Authority to Remove Non-Priority Cases from the Immigration Courts’ Active Docket
April 30, 2021
- Letter signed by 82 law professors sent to Attorney General Merrick Garland explaining the legal authorities the immigration courts and DOJ could employ to reprioritize the immigration court docket.
AILA and Partners Send Letter to AG Garland Urging Reform of America's Immigration Enforcement and Judicial Systems
March 16, 2021
- AILA and coalition partners sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland requesting action on various priorities, including the reprioritization of 700,000 cases in the immigration court backlog.
AILA and Partners Send Letter to President Biden on DOJ Reform of Immigration Courts and Enforcement Priorities
February 1, 2021
- On February 1, 2021, AILA, along with 164 immigration, civil rights, and human rights organizations, sent a letter to President Biden urging reforms to ensure that the Department of Justice (DOJ) establishes fairness and integrity in the immigration courts and the immigration enforcement system.
We Are Home Coalition Sends Letter Requesting DHS Secretary Mayorkas to Implement Immediate Enforcement Reforms
February 18, 2021
- The We Are Home coalition sent a letter urging Secretary Mayorkas to shift nonpriority cases off the immigration court docket.
- We Are Home Press Release: We Are Home and More Than 100 National and State Advocacy Organizations Urge Sec. Mayorkas, Biden Administration to Implement Immediate Enforcement Reforms
Public Defenders Coalition for Immigrant Justice Urge DHS to Remove Thousands of Cases from the Immigration Court Docket
April 14, 2021
- The Public Defenders Coalition for Immigrant Justice sent a letter to DHS Secretary Mayorkas and ICE Director Johnson to take steps to remove thousands of cases from the immigration court docket.