On July 15, 2021, Attorney General Garland restored administrative closure for immigration courts, reversing former Attorney General Sessions’ previous decision which stated that immigration judges (IJs) and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) lack general authority to administratively close cases.
This worsened the already the immigration courts’ backlogged cases which include over 600,000 cases at the end of 2017 fiscal year (over 1.3 million at the end of 2021 fiscal year) and forced case decisions. Administrative closure is a docket-management tool IJs and the BIA use to temporarily pause removal proceeding for cases. A case that is administratively closed is not terminated or dismissed but does not have future hearing dates scheduled.
Administrative closure lightens the huge caseload for immigrations courts by setting aside cases that are low priority and focus on higher priority cases. This also benefits immigrants as it reliefs them by temporarily removing the fear of deportation. Administrative closure can be used a variety of circumstances such as:
- Allowing immigrants sufficient time to seek relief from outside the immigration court such as an application with USCIS.
- Allowing certain individuals with approved immigrant visa petitions to file a waiver application before leaving the country to process their visa at a consulate.
- Ensuring fair hearings for noncitizens who urged treatment for physical or mental issues.