The unaccompanied children were among 20 from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala who were set to appear in Baird’s court for initial deportation hearings.
The Dallas Morning News cited Baird’s statement describing the absentee rate that day as “highly unusual” — so high that he reset the hearings for August 11 rather than possibly issuing a deportation order.
Baird said he was concerned that the children may not have received proper notice of the hearings from the federal government. Attorney Lynn Javier of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security agreed that it was “prudent” to reset the hearings, the Dallas paper reported.
Testifying before the Senate Homeland Security Committee studying the illegal immigration crisis on July 9, Juan Osuna, director of the Executive Office of Immigration Review at the Department of Justice, said that about 46 percent of all children, whether accompanied or unaccompanied, who are apprehended by authorities fail to show up for hearings before immigration judges.
The New York Post reported that Osuna told the committee that his office did not have completely accurate data for the court appearance rate for the unaccompanied children, so the non-appearance rate could be even higher.
Osuna noted that even minors who obey the law face lengthy waits inside the United States because immigration courts are overloaded with a record 375,000 cases. “We are facing the largest caseload that the agency has ever seen,” Osuna testified before the committee.
The William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, which required judges to ascertain that minors would not be sent back into the clutches of traffickers in their homelands before deporting them, makes it nearly impossible to deport unaccompanied minors to Central America without first letting them appear before an immigration judge.
Though possibly the act was passed with good intentions, the authors of the act did not anticipate the massive increase in the numbers of such unaccompanied minors, which has clogged the immigration courts to the point of eliminating their effectiveness.
During a press briefing on July 16, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that those who do not qualify for asylum will be deported: “This administration is also committed to enforcing the law. And that means that after going through that due process proceeding, if an immigration judge determines that an individual does not qualify for humanitarian relief, then that person will be repatriated and sent back to their home country.”
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