Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee today and took questions about the ongoing border crisis for two hours. During questioning by Senator Lindsey Graham, McAleenan revealed that recently conducted pilot study looking at family units found that 90% do not show up for their immigration court hearings. From Fox News:
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., asked Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan how many asylum seekers coming across the southern border show up for their hearings.
“It depends on demographic, the court, but we see too many cases where people are not showing up,” he said, telling Graham that DHS recently conducted a pilot program with family units.
“Out of those 7,000 cases, 90 received final orders of removal in absentia, 90 percent,” he said.
“90 percent did not show up?” Graham asked.
“Correct, that is a recent sample from families crossing the border,” McAleenan clarified.
The percentage of immigrants who show up to immigration court hearings has been a hot topic for the last year or so. Recent numbers (from 2015 and 2016) suggest the number who do not show up is around 40 percent. However, McAleenan appears to be talking about a new pilot study done recently which looks specifically at “family units.”
One of the problems with our current system is that family units cannot be separated and there is no space to hold children with parents for more than a few days. So, effectively, anyone who claims asylum and has a child with them is likely to be released into the country with a promise to return for a court date at some later time, likely months later. Only a small percentage of the people who claim asylum at the border and pass the initial “credible fear” interview are eventually judged to have legitimate claims for asylum. Given those odds, it makes sense that these immigrants would rather not present themselves before a judge who will probably send them home but would prefer to simply disappear and hope the in absentia judgment against them is never enforced.
Here’s McAleenan’s full testimony. I have this cued up to Sen. Graham’s question about who shows up for hearings.