WASHINGTON, D.C. — Tom Homan, the official overseeing Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s removal operations, said Wednesday it will take years for the unaccompanied minors streaming across the border to appear before an immigration judge.
In a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the tens of thousands of Central American unaccompanied minors Wednesday, committee chairman Bob Goodlatte pressed Homan on the idea that it will likely take years for the children and family unit members apprehended at the border to have their cases heard, noting that many likely will never be removed — even if they show up for their hearings — given the administration’s enforcement priorities.
“I can say that every unaccompanied child and every family unit member are served with [Notices to Appear] and scheduled to be put in front of an immigration judge and so that they have their proceeding scheduled, but it’s years out. There is a lack of immigration judges, so some of these hearings take years. It could take two years, or it could take five years,” Homan said.
Goodlatte noted that since 2011, ICE has only been able to remove fewer than 2,000 unaccompanied minors per year. As of October, more than 52,000 unaccompanied minors, largely from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, have been detained crossing into the United States through the southwest border, a 99 percent increase over the year before.
“Last year we removed 1,800, but again as I said about the immigration courts: When we looked at all the unaccompanied alien children that were filed with the immigration court in the last five years, 87 percent of them are still in proceedings. We have no final orders,” Homan said.