Posted on February 6, 2023

Nearly 600,000 Migrants Who Crossed the Border Since March 2021 Were Released in the U.S. With No Immigration Court Dates

Julia Ainsley, NBC News, February 3, 2023

Nearly 600,000 migrants who crossed the U.S. border since March 2021 have been released into the U.S. without being charged or given a date to appear in court, according to data obtained by NBC News, and thousands have even been dropped from the program that was supposed to track them.

The practice, born of necessity as border-crossing numbers soared past previous records, was a break from the protocol of prior administrations, which required migrants to be given charging documents with a court date by Customs and Border Protection shortly after they were apprehended.

The lack of charging documents has left migrants across the country in legal limbo without a court date to determine whether they can legally stay in the U.S., their lawyers said. Many live in the shadows, unable to work and unaware that they are passing their one-year eligibility deadline to apply for asylum.

Immigration lawyers say many clients walk into their offices confused and wondering what the next step should be in the quest for legal residence.

“A lot of the people who are here, they really urgently want to seek asylum. They want their case heard as soon as possible. They don’t want to be in limbo,” said Karlyn Kurichety, legal director of Al Otro Lado, a migrant advocacy organization.

Much of the criticism of Biden’s border policies from both Republicans and Democrats has been focused on migrants as they cross the southern border, but less attention has been paid to how the administration is handling migrants after they cross, a window of time in which the court system is supposed to determine whether or not they can remain legally.

In late March 2021, as the numbers of undocumented migrants arriving at the southern border began to surge, CBP began releasing migrants with what is known as a “Notice to Report,” telling them to report to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement office, rather than a “Notice to Appear,” which instructs migrants when to appear in court to determine whether they will be deported or given protections to remain legally in the U.S.

But that process proved problematic, as reports emerged that many migrants were not showing up at ICE offices to receive court dates.

So ICE began a new program in July 2021, according to a Government Accountability Office report, known as Parole Plus Alternatives to Detention or Parole Plus ATD. The program allowed migrants to be released without charging documents while their whereabouts were tracked with ankle monitors, by checking in on an app or telephonically.

Between late March 2021 and late January 2023, more than 800,000 migrants were released on Notices to Report or Parole Plus ATD. About 214,000 of them were eventually issued charging documents with court dates, according to data obtained by NBC News, meaning that roughly 588,000 did not know when or where to report for their asylum hearings.

NBC News first reported that border agents in Rio Grande Valley were instructed to begin releasing migrants without court dates in March 2021, as border processing centers became overcrowded and unable to quickly process children arriving unaccompanied, the first major border challenge of the Biden presidency.


Since then, the practice has expanded to include the entire border. The Department of Homeland Security had maintained that migrants released without charging documents would soon be given court dates at ICE offices in the interior of the country. It was not previously known that nearly 600,000 newly arrived migrants still remain at large in the U.S. without a clear path toward immigration proceedings.