The total number of pending immigration cases continues to rise. The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), the branch within the Department of Justice (DOJ) that is responsible for the immigration courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), court statistics demonstrate that the total number of backlogged cases are steadily increasing. Currently, the Chicago Immigration Court faces a backlog of 28,448 cases. The number of cases pending before the court is significantly higher than the 19,672 cases that were pending before it in 2015. Specifically, as of 2016, the total number of affirmative and defensive asylum cases pending before the court was 65,218-an increase of 17,000 since 2012.
The backlog may be attributed to the number of ICE arrests. From 2015 to 2017 arrests increased from 119,772 to 143,470, but these arrests are merely a piece of the backlog puzzle. Factors such as the Obama administration’s first term efforts to deport more undocumented immigrants, the increases in unaccompanied minor arrivals since 2013, and the Trump administration’s expansion of immigration enforcement impact pending caseloads before an underwhelming number of immigration judges. What this means for our clients is that while the resource-strained immigration court’s backlog jumps, the completion of clients’ cases before an immigration judge is taking significantly longer.