Multi-American

How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Longer immigration court wait times, with especially long waits in L.A.

Source: Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse

The time it takes for immigration courts to decide cases continues to stretch, with average wait times getting longer by the year lately, according to a new report. And longest waits are in Los Angeles.

This is according to federal data obtained by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University in New York, which keeps tabs on federal enforcement spending.

According to the report released today, average immigration court wait times grew longer during the first six months of federal fiscal year 2011, which began last Oct. 1. During this time the average wait for an immigrant's case to be decided reached 302 days, a jump of 7.5 percent in the last six months and almost 30 percent higher than the average time it took in FY 2009.

Some courts have far worse backlogs than others. From the report:

During the first six months of FY 2011, the court with the longest overall decision time was Los Angeles, where cases averaged 745 days to decide. The New York court posted the second longest decision time of 646 days, followed by Philadelphia where cases averaged 600 days to decide. The Phoenix court was fourth (583 days) while the Portland court was fifth (531 days).

The same five courts had the longest average decision times for cases resulting in removal orders. However, their order was slightly different: New York (602 days), Los Angeles (532 days), Portland (521 days), Phoenix (464 days), and Philadelphia (440 days).


The length of time immigrants must wait varies by their country of origin. Particularly in deportation cases, different countries have different rules determining which deportees they take back, if any, and this affects wait times. From the report:
Among nationalities, and limiting comparisons to the 50 countries with the most cases decided during the first half of FY 2011, Armenians currently had the longest decision times averaging 955 days - more than three times the national average of 302 days. Other nationalities within the top five for their overall average decision times were Indonesia (930 days), China (691 days), Bangladesh (685 days), and Mali (682 days).

The top 50 nationalities with the most cases that had the fastest average decision times were: Mexico (173 days), Honduras (217 days), Cuba (230 days), Canada (264 days), and Costa Rica (279 days).


The amount of time it takes for the Executive Office for Immigration Review to decide an immigrant's fate is often reflected in how much time that person spends in immigrant detention, though some of the shortest waits posted were in detention center courts. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement records through late May show that the average length of stay in immigrant detention has dropped since 2007, as the Obama administration has carried out a record number of deportations in the past couple of years.

However, the bulk of these removals are to Mexico, the country whose nationals spend the least amount of time on average waiting for an immigration court decision.

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