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Closures accelerated further after a 2012 decision by the Board of Immigration Appeals, which gave judges additional authority to close cases. As a result, the number of shelved cases rose steadily for several years. In the last year of the Obama administration, more than 56,000 such cases were closed, the Reuters analysis of court records found. In the first year after Donald Trump became president, the trend was sharply reversed, with about 20,000 cases closed, 64 percent fewer than the previous year. Immigrant advocates say some of the most vulnerable immigrants — victims of domestic violence and unaccompanied minors — could potentially be deported even though they are eligible for a visa, because the courts will not set their cases aside. In January, Sessions announced he will review a recent decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals and consider whether judges should have authority to close cases. He sought legal arguments from all sides as he considers the matter. In a December speech, Sessions skewered the Obama administration for closing “nearly 200,000 pending immigration court cases without a final decision” over a five-year period. “We are completing, not closing, immigration cases,” he said. About 542,000 cases were pending three weeks before Trump took office in January 2017, according to a Department of Justice estimate. Since then, the backlog has grown by another estimated 145,000 cases, a 27 percent increase. In comparison, the Obama administration added an average of 41,000 cases to the backlog each year, according to data from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), a New York-based research organization.
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