Despite the outcry against the current immigration policy, the fact that at least 7,706 undocumented children from Central American countries have been ordered “ removed” or “ deported” by a Federal Immigration Judge without their day in court, speaks volumes about the current immigration system. This increased peak in court decisions follows the increase in children and families from Central America who began migrating across the southern border in the summer of 2013.
Many of these minor children were ordered “removed in absentia” which technically means “in their absence.” These children, who were detected at the border, were given or subsequently mailed Notices to Appear in Federal Immigration Court, but failed to do so for various reasons.
Following the increase in migration into the United States in late 2013, President Obama’s administration ordered the cases of these newly undocumented arrivals to be expedited beginning June of last year. This speeding up, of a normally lengthy process may have caused some of the children not to appear in court for their scheduled appointment, due to the fact they were unable to secure adequate or affordable legal representation, or out of fear of the eminent threat of removal or deportation from the country. However, most of the other children and families may have not received the proper notification of their appointment time and place due to problems with their mailing addresses or notifications that arrived after the hearing had already been conducted.
When initially encountered by Immigration Official upon their entry into the United States, many of these children had a temporary address which they were released to. However, as is often the case with newly arrived immigrants, the children may have had to move to another location to reside with a different family member or friend. They many have had to move to another address in a different altogether for various reasons and never received their Notice to Appear.
According to the regulations promulgated by the United States Department of Justice, the Executive Office for Immigration Review, when an individual does not appear for their court appointment, the Immigration Judge may order the individual or “respondent” removed in their absence. This can be accomplished only if the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Office attorney can establish at the time of the hearing that the notice of the hearing, including the time and place was sent to the last address the respondent provided. The attorney for the Department of Homeland Security must agree with the Immigration Judge that the respondent should be ordered removed in absentia in order for the judge to make a final finding.
Most often, the individuals who are ordered removed or deported in Immigration Court are not physically removed from the country. Unless an individual is encountered by Immigration Officials, they can often live in the United States undetected for many years, often establishing a life and family in the country.
Currently the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a lawsuit against the Federal Government regarding the Notice to Appears that were issued and mailed to the thousands of undocumented children who recently crossed the border, were detected and did not appear for their initial Immigration Court hearing.