A notable surge in immigration-related civil lawsuits is currently underway in federal courts, with the federal government facing an unprecedented influx of legal actions. In February 2023, federal civil courts recorded a staggering 943 immigration-related lawsuits, setting a record for the highest number of such lawsuits in a single month. From October to February in FY 2023, the courts documented a total of 4,175 civil immigration filings, leading to a projected annual record of over 10,000. This surge is primarily attributed to mandamus lawsuits against USCIS.
1. Mandamus Lawsuits Dominate: The proportion of mandamus lawsuits in immigration suits has been steadily rising, reaching 68.5% of all immigration lawsuits filed in federal court in FY 2023.
2. Impact of Delayed Actions: Government delays, particularly by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), on various immigration petitions and applications have prompted a surge in mandamus lawsuits, compelling the government to address pending cases.
3. USCIS Acknowledges Delays: USCIS has acknowledged increased delays, attributing them to the COVID-19 pandemic and prior under-resourcing. The agency has taken steps to address these backlogs and provides processing time information online.
4. Growing Dissatisfaction: The rise in “other immigration actions” lawsuits, often challenging procedural matters at immigration agencies, including USCIS, signals growing dissatisfaction with the administration’s handling of immigration-related issues.
Breakdown of Lawsuit Types:
- Deportation lawsuits remain the smallest category.
- Naturalization application lawsuits follow with minimal representation.
- Habeas corpus lawsuits, intended to challenge non-citizen detention, have seen a modest increase.
- “Other immigration actions,” including mandamus lawsuits, have surged significantly, becoming the most prominent category.
This report highlights the escalating number of immigration lawsuits and the prevailing concerns over delays and procedural issues within immigration agencies. The surge in mandamus lawsuits underscores the urgency for resolution and transparency in the immigration application process.