immigration Law

Immigration backlog grows as Trump administration curtails administrative closures

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The Trump administration’s crackdown on illegal immigration extends to increased opposition to administrative case closures in which judges indefinitely pause lower-priority deportation cases.

Prosecutors with U.S. Immigration and Customers Enforcement appealed less than 1 percent of administrative case closures during the last four years of the Obama administration, while immigration prosecutors in the Trump administration have appealed such decisions 10 times more often, Reuters reports.

Administrative closures are used in a variety of cases, including those of immigrants who have long lived in the United States without committing serious crimes, or who are waiting for action on a visa petition or another event that will affect their immigration status. Cases that are administratively closed can be reopened, but until then immigrants can remain in the country and may be eligible to work.

In the final year of the Obama administration, there were about 56,000 administrative case closures. That number dropped by 64 percent in the first year of the Trump administration.

At the same time, the case backlog is growing, according to Reuters. An average of about 41,000 cases were added to the backlog each year during the Obama administration. Since Trump took office, the backlog grew by an estimated 145,000 cases.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in January that he is considering whether immigration judges should have the authority to administratively close cases. The ABA has filed a brief arguing immigration judges have the authority to administratively close cases, and they needed that authority to manage their high caseloads.

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