Many No-Shows in Immigration Court; Some Hearings Scheduled for 2020

By Jon Feere on August 22, 2014

The Heritage Foundation's news site The Daily Signal ran a piece Friday on one reporter's observations at an immigration court in Arlington, Va. The docket was made up of juveniles, though not youths affiliated with the recent border influx. I happened to attend a day of the juvenile docket in the same courtroom the day after the reporter and his article is quite accurate and worth reading. There is one thing the reporter did not mention, however, and that is the turnout rate.

Of the 39 cases on the docket the day I attended, only 23 juveniles showed up. That's about a 59 percent turnout rate. Obviously this is a significant problem for our immigration system (and our sovereignty) if over a third of a court's docket fails to appear. The problem was even more pronounced last month when only two of 20 juvenile aliens showed up at one Dallas court handling the recently arrived border influx children. (Breitbart did a follow-up article on the rescheduled hearings.)

It is unknown why so many juveniles did not make their court date for the day I attended, and the attorney representing DHS voiced her frustration at the end of the day, telling the judge that she had prepared many different cases. A large stack of files remained in a cart beside her table.

Those who did show up seemed to be meeting the court requirements, and at least one older teen had been driven by a friend all the way up from Georgia — an 11-hour ride, the friend told the judge. The hearing only lasted a few minutes and they planned to drive back that same day after doing a little tourism in D.C. Illustrating the often poor communication between the immigration bureaucracy and immigrants, the judge explained that if he had known they were in Georgia, he could have had the hearing moved down to Atlanta. The friend took it in stride and noted that at least they got to check out the White House.

This exchange illustrated that sometimes the immigration system is not efficient and may even be responsible for some of the no-shows, but also that aliens involved in the system can make an effort if they want to. It is likely that many who did not show up would have had a much shorter drive than the two who came in from Georgia.

The other important takeaway from my day in immigration court was the fact that many of the cases were rescheduled for dates a long time into the future, either to allow attorneys more time to prepare or to allow aliens without representation to obtain an attorney, for example. Many of the cases were scheduled for March and August 2015 and some for the summer of 2018. When scheduling one 2018 case, the judge noted that although it seemed bad he had heard some hearings were being rescheduled for 2020. The judge joked to many of the aliens, "So I'll see ya in a few years, okay?"

Time will tell how accurate that is.