Each year, the Executive Office for Immigration Review publishes a Statistics Yearbook on immigration court matters. The 2016 Yearbook that was released this past spring highlights several significant trends in immigration. For one thing, there is an increase in the number of immigration cases as compared to the previous year. Additionally, immigration court interpreting services are in higher demand due to an exceptionally large number of cases for individuals from certain countries.
Immigration Trends 2016 – Increasing Case Numbers & An Unbalanced System
*All statistics presented in this post are outlined by the FY 2016 Statistics Yearbook
U.S. Immigration Courts are expected to see a rise in court cases due to changing immigration policies under the current administration.
A look at last year’s trends already shows a 14% increase in court matters completed compared with the year 2015.
In addition, data from the Executive Office for Immigration Review, highlighted in the 2016 Statistics Yearbook, reports that immigration court trends demonstrate an unbalanced system in two ways: in relation to the concentration of the immigration workload in certain courts, and in relation to the dominant nationalities and languages represented in court cases.
An Unbalanced Work Load
For instance, 25% of all cases brought to the attention of the immigration court system were accounted by only five city immigration courts, out of a total 58 nation-wide. The cities most burdened by immigration related case loads include:
- Los Angeles, CA
- New York City, NY
- San Francisco, CA
- Arlington, VA
- Miami, FL
Language and Immigration Trends 2016
In turn, the most prominent countries of origin for immigration matters determined which languages were most commonly represented in cases.
The top five languages represented in 2016?
- Spanish – 75.73% of all initial case completions
- English – 10.21% of all initial case completions
- Mandarin Chinese – 3.80% of all initial case completions
- Punjabi – 0.81% of all initial case completions
- Arabic – 0.60% of all initial case completions
The predominance of these languages is due to the fact that 10 countries of origin represented around 86% of initial case completions, and the top five accounted for 55% alone.
Other major countries of origin in order:
- The Dominican Republic
For a full understanding of the percent breakdown based on nationality of the total individuals represented by these immigration cases, see the table below:
FY 2016 Initial Case Completions by Country of Nationality
Country of Nationality
% of Total
Evidently, while there is a wide range of nationalities and languages that appear in U.S. Immigration courts, certain groups make up the majority of those court cases. The trend for FY 2016 reveals an imbalance in both the number of languages and the cities involved in immigration cases.
What does this mean in terms of trends for language services?
An Increased Demand for Spanish Interpreters
According to these statistics, native Spanish language speakers would appear to be the largest group responsible for cases in the court system last year.
As such there is an increased demand for Spanish court interpreters.
While it is helpful to know that Spanish is one of the most requested languages for interpretation in the immigration legal system, understanding that it is entirely dependent on the origin of the particular population of immigrants presenting their cases is crucial.
The majority of the individuals presenting their cases originate from Central American countries. Many of the immigrants involved in legal cases from Central American countries speak other regional indigenous languages aside from Spanish – such as Quechua.
Although in general the demand is the greatest for Spanish court interpreters it is important to note that, providing a Spanish interpreter to an individual prior to investigating which language they have the most proficiency in may result in an inability to communicate.
The Impact of Changing Immigration Trends on the Language Services Industry
It is anticipated that legal interpretation for immigration will continue to be affected as immigration policies change and more cases must be addressed. This could result in a change in demand for certain languages for which interpreters are most needed.
States such as California are already planning on initiatives to protect immigrants with free legal aid. As such interpreters will be needed in increasing numbers. Depending on federal funding to states based on immigration policies, the efficacy of work may also be impacted.
Not only do changing immigration policies affect the legal interpretation industry, but they can also affect the demand for immigration translation of legal documents that usually are involved in cases. As language demands change, the need for competent, industry specific legal translators in those languages will as well.
Aside from policy, it is projected that the numbers of Haitians, Africans, and Asians coming to the United States to claim asylum will also rise in the coming year (according to IRIN News). The demand for interpreters and translators fluent in the various languages of these immigrants will rise in turn, but depending on the area where immigrants go in the United States, the supply may be short (especially for rarer languages or dialects).
While we can only make projections on the changing landscape of immigration for the moment, it is important to keep these trends in mind to anticipate for the upcoming year.
Sources for Immigration Trends 2016:
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