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Overloaded Immigration Courts

Over the past two decades, the United States has put immigration and border enforcement into overdrive, while not allocating adequate resources to the immigration court system, explain the authors.

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idea light bulbSince the start of a concerted effort to deter unauthorized migration at the U.S.-Mexico border with Operation Hold the Line in 1993, the United States has invested massive resources in immigration and border enforcement. The country now spends more on immigration enforcement—nearly $18 billion per year—than on all other federal law enforcement combined. This enforcement overdrive has meant that the number of people deported each fiscal year has steadily risen (see Figure 1), as has the number of immigrants who are detained and prosecuted. As increased enforcement has put more immigrants into the removal process, the nation’s immigration court system has struggled to keep up. Over the past 15 years, the number of cases pending in the immigration court system has more than tripled, and today, it takes an average of 567 days for a case to be processed.

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