Undocumented Immigrant Minors With Legal Counsel Show Up for Immigration Court, Likely to Stay in US, Says Report
The immigration crisis at the southern U.S. border has seen an influx of undocumented immigrant minors enter the country in alarming figures.
According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 57,525 undocumented immigrant children under the age of 18 and traveling without a parent or guardian were apprehended between Oct. 1, 2013, and June 30, 2014. For 2015, the White House said up to 150,000 undocumented children will enter the U.S. With many undocumented immigrant children being apprehended to detention centers, they have the opportunity to make their case to stay in the U.S. at an immigration court hearing. According to new reports, however, the children appearing at the immigration courts bring new problems.
Republican Arizona Senators Jeff Flake and John McCain claimed 90 percent of unaccompanied immigration children skip their immigration hearings. Sen. Flake told The Arizona Republic that his 90 percent source was House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va. The senators' allegation has received criticism, such as from the Department of Justice's Executive Office of Immigration Review. The office's director, Juan Osuna, said 46 percent of all overall minors failed to appear at court hearings, but he didn't share the rate for unaccompanied children.
"The fact that no one -- from the executive branch to the chairman of the congressional oversight committee -- is able to tell us how many of the kids currently being apprehended will show up for court just underscores the need for better tracking and reporting, which is what Sen. Flake and Sen. McCain are trying to do with their bill," Flake spokeswoman Bronwyn Lance Chester said to The Arizona Republic.
As noted by President Barack Obama, the wait times for a hearing at an immigration court can be long. Pew Research revealed the current U.S. immigration process could take months, even years, for an undocumented immigrant to be processed through the country's system, regardless of the outcome.
As Latin Post reported, the Department of Justice noted that the U.S. immigration courts have a backlog of 375,373 cases, approximately 50,000 more cases than in 2012. According to National Association of Immigration Judges President Dana Leigh Marks, she has scheduled immigration cases as far as 2018. Judge Marks is one of the 243 judges making decisions for the more than 59 immigration courts in the U.S.
The Transnational Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University revealed 47.5 percent of undocumented minors with legal counsel are present for their immigration court hearings and granted the right to stay in the U.S. The study revealed nine out of 10 children without an attorney are deported.
"Examining cases filed during the last 21 months (FY 2013 through June 30, 2014) for which outcomes have been reached, a greater proportion of the children have been allowed to remain in this country, and a smaller percentage were ordered deported, relative to earlier cohorts of children," the study stated. "This was true both for those who were represented as well as those who were not."
The study also reported, "Even without the assistance of an attorney, over a quarter of recently arrived children have been allowed by an Immigration Judge to remain, as compared with only 10 percent for the decade as a whole."
For 2014, Congress allocated $312 million for immigration courts, which is an increase from $289 million in 2013.
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