The United States has again broken its previous record for the number of immigration cases waiting to be resolved by a federal court judge. There were nearly 248,000 cases pending by the middle of June this year, a whopping 33 percent higher than where the figure stood at the end of fiscal year 2008. The latest numbers come courtesy of researchers at Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, which specializes in federal law enforcement statistics.
TRAC also found that the average length of time it’s taken to conclude immigration cases during 2010 reached 459 days, a number higher than any year since at least 1998. By state, California remains the leader in average wait times with more than 640 days. One hearing location in San Diego posted an extraordinary average wait time of nearly 1,300 days, or to put it another way, more than three years.
Experts attribute the enormous backlog of immigration cases to a list of possible factors. First, the number of judges available to hear immigration cases is declining, and as of March, one out of every six such positions was unfilled. Just five immigration judges have been sworn in since that time. “(The federal government) still has a very long way to go to fill existing judge vacancies,” according to TRAC.
Second, immigration enforcement in one region of the country over another may be changing, which could lead to a greater number of cases that judges are suddenly required to contend with. New proceedings have actually gone down somewhat during the 2010 fiscal year nationwide. But new matters that required attention from an immigration court reached all-time highs in 2009.
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Figures in chart courtesy Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.