Migrant Children Are No-Shows at Dallas Immigration Hearings

Dianne Solid, Dallas News, July 22, 2014

Marcos and Crisly, Ana and Blanca, Fabiola and Maria Antonia.

The youths were among 20 from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala who were set to appear in federal immigration court Tuesday for initial deportation hearings. But they weren’t there–18 of the children whose cases were set to be heard didn’t show up Tuesday for court.

It was an absentee rate that federal Immigration Judge Michael Baird said was “highly unusual,” so high that he reset the hearings for Aug. 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 government. Attorney Lynn Javier, with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, agreed that it was “prudent” to reset the hearings.

The children are among about 100,000 juveniles who have entered the U.S. without a parent in the last two fiscal years, according to Homeland Security. None of the children set to appear on Tuesday had an attorney, a swelling reality that inspired Dallas Catholic Bishop Kevin Farrell on Monday to appeal to attorneys to step up to provide free services.

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In general, 46 percent of juveniles don’t show up for their immigration court hearings, according to Capitol Hill testimony recently from Juan Osuna, who directs the Justice Department’s immigration courts. The Executive Office of Immigration Review faces a backlog of 375,000 cases and was ordered a few weeks ago to make unaccompanied juveniles the top priority.

The high number of no-shows Tuesday raised questions about whether the children had enough time to prepare for the hearings or whether they and their families made calculated risks not to appear in court.

Nine out of 10 unaccompanied juveniles who do not have attorneys will be deported, according to a new study by the Syracuse, N.Y.-based research center Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.

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The Dallas Hispanic Bar Association has recently signed up 160 attorneys to represent the children and has begun training sessions for them.

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