Immigration court backlog now over 2.5 million cases

Recently released data from Customs and Border protection shows a jump a 36-percent jump in the number of apprehensions along the southern border from July to August. The increase comes after President Joe Biden administration put policies in place to try to stem the flow of illegal border crossings following the end of Title 42.

“It doesn’t seem like this is going to end anytime soon unless there is congressional action,” said Houston immigration attorney, Raed Gonzalez. “It’s really going to take more effort than just throwing money at the border and enforcement if we don’t try to deal with the problem at the bigger scale.”

Gonzalez said the status quo is not be sustainable and focusing solely on border security does not address the reason so many migrants choose to cross the border illegally.

“What else would you do if you’re in a situation where narco-organizations comes to house and they tell you, ‘get out,’ and they kick you out of your house and, ‘I’m going to kill you if you open your mouth.’ What do you do?” said Gonzalez.

The rise in apprehensions along the southern border is fueling an historic backlog in immigration court. According the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, there are 2,596,310 immigration cases pending as of August. Florida, Texas and California have the largest caseloads. TRAC data also shows it is taking an average of 632 days for a case to reach some type of conclusion. This average is down, however, from a high of 925 days in 2021.

“It’s been like for a while, so it’s not really new,” said Houston immigration attorney, Magali Suarez Candler.

Candler said she saw delays begin under President Barack Obama and then ramp up under President Donald Trump when a zero-tolerance approach was implemented. She said under President Joe Biden prosecutors have more discretion in whether to dismiss, or temporarily close, cases involving those not considered a priority for deportation.

“For people who are eligible for getting their green cards, permanent residency another way, where they don’t need to stay in court,” aid Candler. “We’re seeing a lot of prosecutorial discretion that’s helping to reduce the backlog to some degree, now whether it can keep up, that’s a hard thing to say.”

CBP defines an encounter along the southern border as a person illegally crossing the border between points of entry or a person who arrives a legal port of entry but is denied entrance to the US. In 2021, the number of encounters hit an historic high of 1,734,686 and the following year the number of encounters increased to 2,378,944. So far this fiscal year, which ends at the end of September, the number of encounters is 2,206,039.

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Award winning investigative journalist who joined KPRC 2 in July 2000. Husband and father of the Master of Disaster and Chaos Gremlin. “I don’t drink coffee to wake up, I wake up to drink coffee.”