An estimated 96 percent of the Central Americans apprehended illegally entering the U.S. since last summer remain in the U.S., according to data from the Justice Department’s Executive Office of Immigration Review.
The data shows that more than 77,000 illegal immigrant adults and minors were apprehended and served Notices to Appear between July 18, 2014 and May 26, 2015. Just over 3,000 appeared before a judge and were ordered removed.
Nearly 96 percent of cases either received judicial or administrative amnesty, were ordered removed “in absentia” (where in they did not appear for the proceedings), or the case has not been decided yet. About 900 were listed as voluntary departures, the status of their departures is, however, unclear.
According to background on the document provided by the office of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) even the more than 3,000 illegal immigrant adults and minors ordered removed before a judge could still remain in the U.S. as many are not in custody either before or after their hearings.
To illustrate with a hypothetical: a Central American adult arrives at the border, is briefly detained, asserts “credible fear” and is released with a Notice to Appear. The individual decides it is worth pursuing an asylum claim – which provides access to numerous federal aid programs, and ultimately green cards, citizenship and chain migration – so appears in court. Their is claim is rejected and they are ordered removed and told to periodically check in with ICE but, instead, they vanish into the wind. (Even if they are subsequently arrested, ICE will likely not place a detainer on them, unless they have a certain kind of criminal history). Yet, the individual in this hypothetical is listed under “ Decision” as “Removed.”
Meanwhile, there remain approximately 900,000 immigrants still in the U.S. with final orders of deportation to their name, of those some 170,000 are convicted criminals.
“It is therefore almost certainly the case that more than 96% of those apprehended Central American arrivals still remain in the United States, as more arrive by the day,” Sessions office noted.
The revelation that the vast majority of the illegal immigrants from Central American apprehended in the past year remain in the U.S. comes the same day the Obama administration announced a relaxation of family detention policies.
House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) highlighted Wednesday that the administration’s decision to release more detained illegal immigrant families as the large influx of illegal immigration from Central America continues will only serve to encourage it.
“The Obama Administration’s failure to detain recent border crossers and those responsible for the surge is outrageous, especially in light of new information showing that the vast majority of unlawful immigrants and their children who are released into the U.S. and have removal orders never show up for their court date,” Goodlatte said in a statement following the administration’s announcement. “By refusing to detain unlawful immigrants until their claims are proven legitimate, the Obama Administration is practically guaranteeing that they will disappear into our communities and never be removed from the United States.”
He noted that detention and actual immigration enforcement is the “best way” to deter illegal immigration.
“However, the Obama Administration refuses to take the actions necessary to end the crisis at our southern border and instead continues to take steps in the opposite direction that only encourage more to come,” he said.