Among the thousands of families and unaccompanied alien children (UACs) who streamed across the U.S.-Mexico border this year who were ordered removed from the country but had not been retained in custody, over ninety percent of those removal orders are not being completed because the immigrants failed to appear at the required hearing and, in most cases, officials have no real answers about how to track them down.
The border crisis became national news after Breitbart Texas Managing Director Brandon Darby published leaked photos of thousands of UACs, mostly from Central America, detained by the Border Patrol in overcrowded facilities. According to a report by Click2Houston, thousands of the families and children detained by officials were released on their own recognizance — with essentially nothing more than a piece of paper ordering them to return for a hearing at a certain date — because authorities never were able to secure sufficient detention space to hold them. The immigration hearings for these individuals were held “in absentia,” or without them present because they failed to show, but that leaves thousands of removal orders pending against people whose location is completely unknown.
According to Click2Houston, the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) typically reports an “in absentia” rate of 11 to 15 percent annually, but it is much higher with the people who crossed during this summer’s border surge, and the overall caseload is a problem as well. EOIR records show that between July 18 and Oct. 28 of this year, 30,467 families and UACs were caught crossing the border, but only 22 percent have received a final disposition in their case, determining whether they can remain in the U.S. or must be deported.
Of 17,042 families were caught crossing the border during this time, only 1,428 were detained. Twenty one have been ordered removed from the U.S. Of the 15,614 families who were not detained, 4,197 were ordered removed, but 96 percent of those orders were done in absentia.
In this same time period, 13,425 UACs were caught crossing the border, and 1,671 have been ordered removed. Ninety-two percent of these orders were done in absentia.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials have stated that processing the immigration cases for everyone who crossed the border this year and tracking down those who have failed to show at their hearings are top priorities, but it remains to be seen how this can be accomplished. As Breitbart Texas reported, there are signs that illegal border crossings are once again on the rise, and tens of thousands of immigrants from this year’s border surge not only still have unresolved cases, but now unknown whereabouts. DHS’s own year-end enforcement statistics show a “continued steep drop in deportations,” according to a report by Jessica Vaughn at the Center for Immigration Studies.
Vaughn had sharp criticism for the government’s “costly catch-and-release scheme,” which she blamed for causing”the illegal resettlement of tens of thousands of illegal aliens, with taxpayers now picking up the tab for schooling, health care, housing, public safety, and other expenses, and which has only increased the incentives for more people to try to enter illegally.” The apprehension figures widely touted by government officials as proof of immigration enforcement were, according to Vaughn, “meaningless, and deliberately misleading” when so many illegal immigrants are routinely released.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter at @rumpfshaker.