“It’s taking a year or more in some places for these people to come up on a hearing,” says Gary Mead, a former head of Enforcement and Removal Operations for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “And many times, they don’t have an attorney, or they’ve lost an attorney, and they get an extension, and maybe it’s two years before they have a hearing. And in the interim period, they enroll in school, or they get a job, or they are reunited with family members, and then they are no longer an enforcement priority.”
Even if, after two or three years, a hearing judge finally orders removal, many illegal immigrants just ignore the order. No one makes them leave.
The number of minors — the ones now flooding the border — removed in this way is tiny, measured in the hundreds for Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador combined. According to Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, the United States deported a total of 802 minors to those three countries in 2011; 677 in 2012; and 496 in 2013. Even if, with the administration’s new enforcement “surge,” that number were to soar to, say, 1,200, it would be nothing compared to the number of young people coming in.