Report: Nearly all asylum-seeking families with legal representation show up to court

In this 2016 file photo, immigrants from Central America wait outside the portable tents at the Humanitarian Respite Center at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in McAllen on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016. (Delcia Lopez | dlopez@themonitor.com)

Despite rhetoric to the contrary, asylum-seeking families with legal representation appear for nearly 100% of their initial or all of their court appearances, according to a report from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.

On the heels of reports confirming that President Trump has ordered U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to conduct mass roundups of migrant families that have received deportation orders, TRAC’s new data shows nearly 100% of asylum-seeking families who have legal aid show up to their initial court appearances, and the subsequent court hearings.

TRAC is a non-partisan, Syracuse University-based project that tracks data from ICE and other federal agencies.

“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,” the report read. “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% had appeared at every hearing held.”

This appears to contradict U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s often-quoted statement that “90% of recent asylum seekers skipped their court hearings.

On June 11, acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding the “crisis” at the border.

During that hearing, McAleenan stated that an expedited pilot program tracking migrant families found that 90% of asylum-seekers did not show up for their respective hearings.

McAleenan cited that out of 7,000 cases of families tracked, that 90% received final orders of removal in absentia.

But the TRAC report takes a look at nearly 47,000 cases of families.

“TRAC’s examination of court records also showed that there were nearly 10,000 ‘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 notice’s filing, charges alleged, and particulars on the family were all blank,” the report read.

The testimony given by McAleenan is thought to be at least one of the reasons for the Trump administration ordering ICE agents to begin deporting asylum-seeking families with deportation orders beginning Sunday in at least 10 major U.S. cities, including Houston, Chicago, Miami and Los Angeles, to name a few.

The confirmation of ICE’s operation to deport as many as 2,000 asylum-seeking families comes days after President Trump tweeted that ICE agents would be “removing the millions of illegal aliens” who are in the country.

That statement via social media came a day before Trump kicked off his re-election campaign in Orlando, Florida.

ICE officials did not deny the content of Trump’s tweet, and released a statement stating they would be conducting interior enforcement of anyone who doesn’t have legal authority to be in the country.

“The border crisis doesn’t start and stop at the border, which is why ICE will continue to conduct interior enforcement without exemption for those who are in violation of federal immigration law,” an ICE statement read. “This includes routine targeted enforcement operations, criminals, individuals subject to removal orders, and worksite enforcement. This is about addressing the border crisis by upholding the rule of law and maintaining the integrity of the immigration system, as created by Congress.”

The news of the deportation operation also comes on the same day Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered 1,000 additional National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border to help support U.S. Border Patrol and CBP personnel at various detention facilities in the Rio Grande Valley and El Paso.