Immigration Court Burden Grows

The number of pending immigration court cases has soared from 130,000 in 1998 to an estimated 357,000 in 2014 according to a study by the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC).  This backlog is commonly attributed to the fact that the number of judges has not kept pace with the rising number of cases. But there is another explanation.

The 270 percent increase in backlogged cases is accompanied by a 280 percent increase in the average number of days required to process a case. The question then becomes why has the processing time increased?

The BCP study points to a major increase in the number of aliens appearing in immigration court who have legal representation. This suggests that immigration lawyers are gumming up the process. Of course, the immigration bar would dispute that and say that they are simply assuring that their clients are receiving fair consideration in the immigration court system.

Another factor not in the BPC study is the greater burden placed on immigration judges by changes in the asylum law. Asylum hearings are for deportable aliens fighting deportation on the basis that they face persecution if sent home. The expansion in recent years of asylum protection to include Chinese escaping the government’s family planning policy and women seeking protection against tribal genital cutting practices, or spousal abuse, or sexual orientation discrimination has made adjudication much more difficult in sorting out whether the alien truly has a well-founded fear of persecution or is simply inventing a story in the hopes of finding a sympathetic immigration judge.

An immigration lawyer helps the alien know what to say and not to say. And, the immigration bar has long advocated adoption of public funding to allow indigent aliens to be represented.

About Author


Jack, who joined FAIR’s National Board of Advisors in 2017, is a retired U.S. diplomat with consular experience. He has testified before the U.S. Congress, U.S. Civil Rights Commission, and U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform and has authored studies of immigration issues. His national and international print, TV, and talk radio experience is extensive (including in Spanish).


  1. avatar

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  2. avatar

    This court should only be used to evaluate the status of LEGAL immigrants. Anyone who is in the country illegally should not be allowed any type of hearing or due process. They should be deported immediately.

  3. avatar

    I know of one immigrant that came in on a student visa yet never enrolled in school and worked illegally for three years (all the while never paying taxes). Ofcourse she then was able to acquire a green card through marriage and, although racking up 5 charges of theft (before AND after the green card), remains in this country, travels in and out of the country with not so much as a blink from CBP. Obama’s people have been quite successful in mis-directing our attention to the southern border while they stack the democratic vote through the “legal entry” process.

  4. avatar

    I speak Chinese and have lived in China. While I’m no fan of the CCP, their One Child Policy was the single smartest, best thing they ever dead. Period. If not instituted, China’s population would now exceed 2 billion and most would be living in abject poverty. Would that be humane?

    Now, my country is granting “political asylum” to people from China who feel it their right to have as many children as the want? And to do so in my country?

    The insanity of “immigration policy” in the USA never ceases to amaze.

  5. avatar

    And we, as the legal American taxpayers, end up paying for this demented BS due to our governments insanity.

  6. avatar

    Another Good Question

    How many of the immigration attorneys working the system to death are paid with with We the People [chumps] tax dollars? We know the judges are.

    • avatar

      That is not The People’s money…………that is the System’s Money owed and paid by The People so that the System works……………………….use your engineering mind if you have one for a change….we are born here with responsibilities and bills to pay…to be part of the US SO…..again IT IS NOT OUR MONEY……