McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Immigration cases currently have the biggest backlog in U.S. history, new data shows.

Immigration courts fall under the Department of Justice

There were 1.59 million pending cases as of the start of the New Year, the largest in U.S. history, according to Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) of Syracuse University, which tracks all immigration court cases.

“The U.S. Immigration Court system is currently staring up a mountain of pending cases,” TRAC reports.

The total pending cases is larger than the population of Philadelphia right now.

TRAC researcher Austin Kocher told Border Report there has been a “deluge of cases” since President Joe Biden took office.

The fourth-quarter growth in pending immigration cases increased by nearly 140,000 cases from October to December 2021, and “is the largest on record,” TRAC reports.

(TRAC Graphic)

“A disturbing new trend has emerged during the Biden administration that demands attention: since the start of the Biden administration, the growth of the backlog has been accelerating at a breakneck pace,” TRAC reports.

When President George W. Bush took office in 2001, there were fewer than 150,000 pending immigration cases. Cases saw a considerable jump during the Trump administration. But TRAC notes never have so many cases been documented before Biden’s presidency.

“In recent months, the rate of growth has exploded,” TRAC reports.

(Graphic by TRAC)

The coronavirus pandemic has contributed to the backlog, causing delays or cancelations of many immigration court proceedings nationwide, the report notes.

And if the current rate continues, TRAC estimates 800,000 new cases could be added in the first quarter of 2022. That would be a 166% increase.

“In recent months, the rate of growth has exploded.”

TRAC report

The American Immigration Lawyer’s Association (AILA), in a one-year review of Biden’s first year in office, criticized the high number of pending immigration cases. The association, which represents 15,000 immigration lawyers, also advocates that immigration courts are separated from the Department of Justice.

“The attorney general has done too little to reduce the 1.5 million case backlog, and simply hiring more judges will not be enough. Ultimately, to ensure everyone has a fair day in court, America needs an independent immigration court system,” AILA wrote in a paper Wednesday, “One Year Later, Promises on Immigration Have Fallen Short.”

TRAC’s takeaway to the rising number of cases: “These findings suggest that the Immigration Courts are entering a worrying new era of even more crushing caseloads — all the more concerning since no attempt at a solution has yet been able to reverse the avalanche of cases that Immigration Judges now face.”

Sandra Sanchez can be reached at