Cases up sharply in Bloomington immigration court

A sign reads Bishop Henry Whipple Federal Building in front of a building
Data shows a 70 percent jump in pending cases at the federal immigration court in Bloomington, mirroring a trend nationwide.
Jim Mone | AP

Pending cases in the federal immigration court in Bloomington have jumped by 70 percent since last year, according to recently released data from Syracuse University.

There are several factors behind the increase, most notably tougher enforcement by Immigraton and Customs Enforcement, asylum requests and federal rules implemented under the Trump administration.

Ana Pottratz Acosta, an immigration law professor at Mitchell Hamline law school, calls it “death by a thousand cuts.”

Attorney Ana Pottratz Acosta stands for a portrait.
Ana Pottratz Acosta
Evan Frost | MPR News 2018

“On the ICE side, enforcement has gone up, so the number of arrests, particularly arrests of people who have been here for a long time with no criminal history, those have increased exponentially,” she said. “But then on the immigration court side, they haven't beefed up the system by hiring more immigration judges or more personnel to manage the increase in cases.”

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According to the data, 13,703 cases are pending in Minnesota.

Pottratz Acosta points to rules implemented over the past two years that have contributed to the rise in pending cases, including a quota system and performance measures for immigration judges to follow.

The backlogs are at an all time high, according to the data. Nationwide, more than a million cases are currently pending, with some of the highest numbers seen in New York, California and Texas.

Officials are working to process cases more quickly and will request funding for more immigration judges in 2020, said Gail Montenegro, a spokesperson for the midwest region of the Executive Office for Immigration Review.

She added that between 2009 and 2016, immigration courts experienced stagnant or declining productivity. But she said that in fiscal year 2019, the Executive Office of Immigration Review completed the second-highest total in its history.

The Bloomington court processes immigration cases from Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. There are currently six immigration judges hearing those cases.