Immigration Law

Most Released Families Attend Immigration Court Hearings

TRAC, June 18, 2019

"The latest case-by-case records from the Immigration Courts indicate that as of the end of May 2019 one or more removal hearings had already been held for nearly 47,000 newly arriving families seeking refuge in this country. Of these, almost six out of every seven families released from custody had shown up for their initial court hearing. Usually multiple hearings are required before a case is decided. For those who are represented, more than 99 percent had appeared at every hearing held. See Figure 1. Thus, court records directly contradict the widely quoted claim that "90 Percent of Recent Asylum Seekers Skipped Their Hearings."

Under our current system, there is no legal requirement that immigrants actually receive notice, let alone timely notice, of their hearing. Given many problems in court records on attendance and in the system for notifying families of the place and time of their hearings, these appearance rates were remarkably high.

... There can be additional problems at the court's end. As of the end of May, TRAC's examination of court records showed that, symptomatic of the problem of families receiving timely hearing notice, there were nearly ten thousand "phantom" family cases on the court's books. These were cases entered into the Immigration Court's database system but with little information apart from a case sequence number. The date of the NTA, its filing date, charges alleged, and particulars on the family were all empty. Virtually all information on these phantom NTAs was blank - yet this is the same system used by court personnel to manage sending hearing notifications."