GAO: Immigration Courts: Actions Needed to Reduce Case Backlog and Address Long-Standing Management and Operational Challenges

June 2017

The Department of Justice's  xecutive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) is responsible for conducting immigration court proceedings, appellate reviews, and administrative hearings to fairly, expeditiously, and uniformly administer and interpret U.S. immigration laws.

GAO's analysis showed that the Executive Office for Immigration Review's (EOIR) case backlog—cases pending from previous years that remain open at the start of a new fiscal year—more than doubled from fiscal years 2006 through 2015 primarily due to declining cases completed per year. 

EOIR has taken some steps to address its workforce needs, such as entering into a contract to determine judicial staff workloads, but does not have a workforce plan that would help EOIR better address staffing needs, such as those resulting from the 39 percent of its immigration judges who are currently eligible for retirement. EOIR also does not have efficient practices for hiring new immigration judges, which has contributed to immigration judges being staffed below authorized levels. GAO found that it took an average of 742 days to hire new judges from 2011 through August 2016. By assessing its hiring process and developing a hiring strategy that targets staffing needs, EOIR would be better positioned to hire judges more quickly and address its staffing gaps. Report