More than four out of every 10 people allowed to remain free pending deportation proceedings failed to show up for hearings in immigration court in 2015, according to a report released Wednesday.
That figure has been on the rise and obscured in annual reports to Congress, according to the report, written by former immigration judge Mark Metcalf for the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies.
“Actual failure to appear rates nearly doubled or more than doubled what the courts told Congress.”
The 37-page study draws on statistics and interviews with unnamed immigration judges. It paints an image of a dysfunctional court system and argues that political appointees of former President Barack Obama made it worse. Those observations come from the judges, themselves.
“They described a system plunged into turmoil by appointees at the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security who ignored statutes, precedent, and regulation and imposed policies that dramatically increased backlogs and nearly halted adjudication,” the report states.
What’s more, according to the study, a growing number of asylum seekers from nations that sponsor terrorism have disappeared into the country.
In 2015, 953,506 immigrants ordered deported remained in the United States — in many cases years after receiving their final orders. That number represents a 58 percent increase from 2002.
The report also indicates that U.S. immigration courts have the highest failure-to-appeal rate of any court system in the country. Over the past 20 years, 37 percent of all immigrants allowed to remain free pending trial skipped their court dates. On average, 46,000 people every year vanished from proceedings created to adjudicate claims of persecution in their home countries.
Metcalf argues that reports to Congress artificially make the failure-to-appear rate appear lower by comparing absconders to all people in the immigration system. That group includes immigrants who have been detailed — a group almost guaranteed to appear in court. So for instance, 27 percent of all people in immigration court failed to appear for hearings in 2015. But of those who were free pending trial, the figure was 43 percent.
[lz_table title=”Immigration Absconders” source=”Center for Immigration Studies”]Share of immigrants skipping hearings
*Compared to all in immigration courts.
**Compared to those free pending trial.
“Actual failure to appear rates nearly doubled or more than doubled what the courts told Congress,” the report states, looking at rates dating to 1996. “Here the devil isn’t in the details. The devil is the details.”
The study cites a 2015 report by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General pointing to measures that improve the rate at which immigrants appear for trial. Those who have been made to wear electronic monitoring devices, report by telephone or receive visits by authorities at home or at job sites — all common practice in other federal courts — skipped court almos half as often in sample groups.
The report also notes that since 2012, the failure-to-appear rate has nearly doubled. The 43 percent rate is the highest since 2006, when 59 percent of immigrants free pending trial skipped their court dates.
Metcalf faults the immigration system for a lack of follow-through in asylum cases. His report indicates that from 2003 through 2015, a total of 31,725 asylum applicants — 51 percent, altogether — either were ordered removed or sought a different way to remain in the United States by withdrawing their applications.
“Yet no accounting from the courts or [the Department of Homeland Security] tells Congress or the public what eventually became of these people once inside American borders,” the report states.
The report makes four recommendations:
- Immigrants who abscond should face removal orders that cannot be reopened or set aside, and deportation orders imposed on people who fail to appeal should permanently bar re-entry into the United States except in cases where people might be needed for national security reasons to to assist in criminal prosecutions.
- Immigrants ordered deported immediately should be placed in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody.
- Discretion by immigration officials to delay deportation should be restricted.
- Immigration, asylum, refugee and visa policies affecting people from counties deemed terrorism risks should be re-evaluated.