In the last nine months, the backlog of cases in the immigration court in Harlingen, Texas—a city in the heart of the Rio Grande Valley— has grown 67 percent—the biggest jump as immigration case backlogs and wait times generally continued their upward drive, according to a university tracking program.
The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University reported Thursday that the number of pending cases in the nation’s immigration courts reached an all-time high of 247,922 by mid-June—up 2.1% since TRAC’s last report three months ago, and 33.1% higher than the number of cases pending at the end of fiscal 2008.
The average wait time in immigration courts also is moving upward, according to TRAC, and is now 459 days. The longest wait times are in California—an average of 643 days.
In examining immigration courts with the fastest buildups, TRAC considers only those courts with at least 1,000 pending cases. After the four-judge court in Harlingen, Texas, the court in Las Vegas ranked second (up 58%), followed by San Antonio (up 55%); Chicago (up 39%), and Phoenix (up 37%).
Harlingen is just north of Mexico, near the southern tip of Texas. The city’s chamber of commerce describes it as a “laid-back blend of South Texas charm and the rich cultural traditions of Mexico.”
TRAC reports that some immigration courts have experienced a decline in their number of pending cases during fiscal 2010. Looking again at courts with at least 1,000 pending cases at the end of last year, government data showed the sharpest decline—32%-- in the immigration court in Oakdale, La. This was followed by courts in Orlando, Fla. (down 15%); Guaynabo, Puerto Rico (down 10%), and Miami and Atlanta (both down 5%).
Reasons for the overall growth in the backlog of pending cases continue to include the number of available judges. The Executive Office of Immigration Review has sworn in five new judges since March but turnover outpaces new hires. New requirements imposed by federal appellate courts also contribute to the backlog, according to TRAC.