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The Federal Government Shutdown has resulted in the cancellation of Immigration Court Hearings.

Since the beginning of the federal government shutdown, most Immigration Court hearings have been cancelled. As of January 11, the estimated number of cancellations reached 42,726. Each week the shutdown continues, cancelled hearings will likely grow by another 20,000. As many as 100,000 individuals awaiting their day in court may be impacted if the shutdown continues through the end of January. See Table 1.

Table 1. Immigration Court Hearings
As of Shutdown Week Scheduled Hearings Cancelled
Dec 24 – 28 5,579
Dec 30-Jan 4 16,987
Jan 7 – 11 42,726
Jan 14 – 18 67,427
Jan 21 – 25 86,192
Jan 28-Feb 1 108,112
Feb 4 – Feb 8 129,490
Feb 11 – 15 149,434
Feb 18 – 22 165,301
Feb 25-Mar 1 185,071

The magnitude of the shutdown’s effect – termed “devastating” by Immigration Judge Dana Leigh Marks – is based upon detailed analyses of court records by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University[1]. Individuals impacted by these cancellations may have already being waiting two, three, or even four years for their day in court. Judge Marks, former president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, in an interview January 9 on PBS estimated that it could add another three or four years to the wait for immigrants who are on her docket before their hearing can be rescheduled[2].

Since few cases are being resolved during the shutdown, each week the shutdown continues the practical effect is to add thousands of cases back onto the active case backlog which had already topped eight-hundred thousand (809,041) as of the end of last November.

States Where Hearing Cancellations Are Occurring

Immigration Courts in California have experienced the most hearing cancellations – an estimated 9,424 as of January 11. New York had the second highest number of individuals impacted by court cancellations — 5,320. Texas was close behind New York with an estimated 5,141 court proceedings cancelled. See Figure 1.

Figure 1. Top Ten States with Most Cancelled Immigration Court Hearings, as of January 11, 2019
(Click for larger image)

If the shutdown continues, the number of individuals in each state who will have their Immigration Court hearing cancelled grows. If the shutdown continues through the end of January, nearly 25,000 individuals waiting for their hearing in California immigration courts will be impacted. Hearing cancellations will be around 10,000 or more each in New York, Texas and Florida. New Jersey, Virginia and Massachusetts will each see over 4,000 immigrants affected by cancellations. State-by-state totals for all states are shown in Table 2.

Table 2. Individuals with Scheduled Immigration Court Hearings*
State** Cancellations If Shutdown Continues Through:
Jan 11 Feb 1 Mar 1
All 42,726 108,112 185,071
California 9,424 24,773 41,384
New York 5,320 12,759 21,367
Texas 5,141 13,094 22,284
Florida 4,232 9,946 17,469
New Jersey 1,894 4,634 8,068
Massachusetts 1,805 4,026 6,121
Virginia 1,791 4,575 7,892
Maryland 1,367 3,697 6,803
Illinois 1,186 2,978 4,975
Pennsylvania 1,163 3,106 5,114
Arizona 997 2,226 3,691
Minnesota 959 2,272 3,688
North Carolina 930 2,370 4,388
Georgia 763 2,255 3,598
Colorado 751 1,903 3,388
Louisiana 602 1,587 2,954
Missouri 557 1,403 2,485
Tennessee 523 1,628 3,584
Washington 470 1,388 2,228
Nebraska 462 1,343 2,805
Kentucky 422 981 1,712
Michigan 397 948 1,559
Ohio 390 1,140 2,051
Nevada 307 743 1,432
Oregon 293 652 1,189
Connecticut 207 594 1,136
Utah 206 587 893
Hawaii 47 108 175
Idaho 46 144 253
Puerto Rico 23 86 142
South Dakota 20 74 111
North Dakota 19 36 53
Northern Mariana Is. 8 19 25
Guam 4 17 19
Alaska 0 20 35
* Based upon EOIR records, as of November 30, 2018, of scheduled hearings. Excludes hearings at detained hearing locations.
** State where Immigration Court hearing was located. States not listed do not have hearings located there.

Footnotes

[1] This estimate was derived from the latest available court records, current as of November 30, analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University. It is based upon case-by-case records covering court hearings that had been scheduled during the shutdown period. Excluded from the counts were hearings at detained locations where proceedings are reportedly continuing to be held.

[2] Judge Marks’s crowded docket is not atypical. TRAC reported that courts back in May were then so backlogged that new hearings were not being scheduled until late in 2021 or even 2022. And since then – even before the shutdown began – the backlog has only grown larger.

TRAC is a nonpartisan, nonprofit data research center affiliated with the Newhouse School of Public Communications and the Whitman School of Management, both at Syracuse University. For more information, to subscribe, or to donate, contact trac@syr.edu or call 315-443-3563.