DOJ immigration court agency misrepresents its accomplishments

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The agency that runs U.S. immigration courts routinely overstates its performance, the Justice Department office of inspector general says.

Within the DOJ, the Executive Office for Immigration Review administers the courts that decide whether or not to deport those charged with immigration violations. In a report (.pdf) released Nov. 1, auditors describe several ways the EOIR makes its performance look better than it really is.

For example, the EOIR counts changes of venue and transfers as case "completions" even though the courts have not actually decided the case. The agency gives courts credits for closing those cases even though they aren't complete, auditors say.

In a sample of 1,785 closed cases, the EOIR had counted 484 administrative events as completions.

The agency told auditors that the method lets it measure individual courts' work. But auditors say that it's confusing, that transfers and changes of venue don't bring cases closer to completion, and that it's important to track how long individual cases last from start to finish.

For its timeliness goal, the EOIR counts how much time cases spend in individual courts--even when cases go through more than one court. Auditors say a if a case has a 60-day goal for completion and then spends 50 days in one court and 50 days in another, EOIR would report that the courts completed two cases within the 60-day goal.

As a result, it appears that "more cases meet the completion goals than actually do," auditors say.

The agency also no longer sets completion goals for cases where immigrants are not detained. It stopped doing so in 2010 to focus on cases where immigrants were being detained, but timeliness still matters for non-detained immigrants.

According to their sample, auditors say cases involving non-detained immigrations last more than 17 months on average.

For more:
- download the report, I-2013-001 (.pdf)

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