The Washington Times
Thursday, November 1, 2012
The federal court that hears immigration cases and administers the nation’s immigration laws is “flawed” and has failed to keep up with pending cases despite an increase in the number of judges, a report said Thursday.
Justice Department Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz, in a 74-page report, said the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), which decides whether aliens should be removed from the country and adjudicates cases involving undocumented workers, has failed to keep up with its caseload despite a $302.3 million budget and more than 1,500 personnel, including 238 judges.
Mr. Horowitz‘ office found that EOIR’s performance reporting for both the immigration courts, where alien removal cases are heard, and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), which handles appeals from those decisions, was so flawed that Justice Department officials were unable to determine how well immigration cases and appeals were being processed or identifying needed improvements.
Investigators also said some immigration cases and appeals took long periods of time to complete; performance reports were incomplete and overstated actual accomplishments; and EOIR did not accurately report the time it took to complete cases.
The report concluded that the total number of cases resolved by the immigration courts each year and the total time those cases remained in the court system overall were not readily apparent in EOIR’s performance reports.
In addition, the report said, investigators found that the EOIR reported administrative events, such as changes of venue and transfers, as case completions even though no decisions was yet reached on whether to remove aliens from the United States. As a result, it said, a case could be “completed” multiple times.
“Reporting these administrative actions as completions overstates the accomplishments of the immigration courts,” the report said.
According to the report, from fiscal 2006 through fiscal 2010, the overall efficiency of the courts did not improve even though there was an increase in the number of judges. It said cases for non-detained aliens took on average 17½ months to adjudicate, with some cases taking more than 5 years.
The report also said that in addition to the volume of new cases, a significant contributing factor to case processing times, especially in cases with non-detained aliens, was the number and length of continuances immigration judges granted. In 1,785 closed cases examined by the Inspector General's Office, 953 cases — 53 percent — had one or more continuances. Each of the cases averaged four continuances and the average amount of time granted for each continuance was 92 days.
According to the report, appeals of immigration judge decisions for non-detained aliens averaged over 16 months — almost five times longer than the 3½ month average for appeals involving detained aliens.
The report also said the BIA is underreporting the time it takes to process an appeal because it does not always start counting the period from when a notice of appeal is filed. Instead, it said, in some cases EOIR begins tracking the time period from when a staff member is assigned to work on the appeal. The Inspector general's Office said that as a result, cases were pending up to 636 days longer than reported by EOIR in its sample.
Mr. Horowitz‘ office made nine recommendations to help EOIR improve its processing and management of immigration cases and appeals. EOIR concurred with six recommendations and partially concurred with three others.
Read more: IG: Immigration courts 'flawed,' behind in caseloads - Washington Times http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/nov/1/ig-immigration-courts-flawed-behind-caseloads/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS#ixzz2Azojyi97
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