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Authoritative Study Reveals Imminent ICE Raids Target Families Ordered Deported Without Due Process of Law

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According to the New York Times, “Nationwide raids to arrest thousands of members of undocumented families have been scheduled to begin Sunday…The officials said ICE agents were targeting at least 2,000 immigrants who have been ordered deported — some as a result of their failure to appear in court…The families being targeted crossed the border recently: The Trump administration expedited their immigration proceedings last fall.”  According to a previous report of the raids when they were postponed weeks ago, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Acting Director Mark Morgan said ICE would be targeting “individuals who have gone through due process and who have received final orders of deportation.”  

But a recent report by Syracuse University’s TRAC calls into question those due process claims.  Indeed, as reported in the New York Times, “Immigration defense lawyers are likely to file motions to reopen the families’ immigration cases, which would significantly delay, if not stop altogether, their removal from the United States.”  Based upon the findings of the TRAC report, those motions would likely be based upon basic due process violations.  

Ur Jaddou, Director of DHS Watch and former USCIS Chief Counsel, said:  “The rule of law requires due process for immigrants. The University of Syracuse TRAC report suggests that many of those reported to be the target of these immigration raids did not receive due process.  The Acting ICE Director can claim his actions are all about the ‘rule of law’ until he’s blue in the face. However, there is a credible report that suggests the opposite is true. ”  

David Leopold, Counsel to DHS Watch, Chair of Immigration at Ulmer & Berne and former President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said:  “There are serious due process concerns about the group of immigrants targeted by the Trump administration.  Many, if not most, of these families did not get proper notice of their deportation hearings or their hearings were not held at all. In many cases the immigration judges recorded that they had decided the case before the hearing even happened!  These legally defective cases should all be reopened so that the families can have their day in court. Trump’s latest raid scheme targeting families who have been ordered deported without due process is repugnant to core American values.”  

Here’s what TRAC found:  The TRAC study includes all flagged families in the immigration court system since such tracking began in September 2018 which, according to the New York Times, includes the targets of these immigration raids (“The Trump administration expedited their immigration proceedings last fall”).  Of the 7,724 cases with orders of removal, DHS says that 90% of them were issued “in absentia” which they claim means the family did not show up. However, “TRAC undertook a detailed examination of information on each decision that indicated the family had not appeared at their initial hearing” and found multiple due process concerns:

  • “TRAC’s further examination showed that for 83 percent of these so-called ‘in absentia’ cases it was unclear whether or not a hearing had actually occurred. This is because for each of these cases rather than recording that the case had been decided at the scheduled hearing, the immigration judge had recorded that s/he had decided the case ‘prior to [this initial] hearing.’ When this happens, the scheduled hearing need not occur so there would be no hearing for the family to have attended. Yet they were marked absent.”
  • “Some immigrants who don’t appear simply have not received notification of their hearing.”
  • “Others may receive a written notice, but the notice may have been in English which they couldn’t read.”
  • “While families may have been handed notices to appear, these notices are unlikely to contain the actual location and time for their court hearing since such details will not yet have been determined.”
  • “Receiving subsequent notices after the court sets the hearing date and location can be problematic. Families released at the border may not yet know where they will reside, and may not have a way to reliably receive hearing notices sent through the mail – at least until they have time to get permanently situated.”
  • “As of the end of May, TRAC’s examination of court records showed that, symptomatic of the problem of families receiving timely hearing notice, there were nearly ten thousand ‘phantom’ family cases on the court’s books. These were cases entered into the Immigration Court’s database system but with little information apart from a case sequence number. The date of the NTA, its filing date, charges alleged, and particulars on the family were all empty. Virtually all information on these phantom NTAs was blank – yet this is the same system used by court personnel to manage sending hearing notifications.”
  • “Even during normal times, in reviewing court records TRAC found that the addresses where notices are sent may be unreliable. Sometimes address fields are left empty, while for others TRAC found there were transcription errors. For example, the recorded zip code did not actually exist or implied a different city and state from those recorded, or the city wasn’t even in the state shown. The address also may not be the current address because the immigrant had moved. Even when address changes were sent the court, these may not have been updated in the court’s records.”