Friday, September 26, 2014

Summoned, But Not Really Expected

I am shocked- shocked!- to learn that people don't want to "self-deport."  The Associated Press reports

Tens of thousands of young families caught crossing the border illegally earlier this year subsequently failed to meet with federal immigration agents, as they were instructed, the Homeland Security Department has acknowledged privately.

An official with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement revealed that about 70 percent of immigrant families the Obama administration had released into the United States never showed up weeks later for follow-up appointments.

The ICE official made the disclosure in a confidential meeting at its Washington headquarters with immigration advocates participating in a federal working group on detention and enforcement policies. The Associated Press obtained an audio recording of the meeting Wednesday and separately interviewed participants.

On the recording, the government did not specify the total number of families released into the United States since October. Since only a few hundred families have already been returned to their home countries and limited US detention facilities can house only about 1,200 family members, the 70 percent figure suggests the government released about 41,000 members of immigrant families who subsequently failed to appear at federal immigration offices.

The official, who was not identified by name on the recording, also said final deportation had been ordered for at least 860 people traveling in families caught at the border since May but only 14 people had reported as ordered.

In a statement e-mailed Thursday afternoon, ICE spokeswoman Gillian Christensen said the no-show rate ‘‘represents an approximate snapshot of individuals encountered beginning in May’’ who did not report to ICE. Christiansen added that some of those people may still be reporting to immigration court hearings and a ‘‘significant’’ number of deportation cases are still pending before judges.

On the negative side, the number of detention facilities, as indicated by the AP, is grossly insufficient. But on the negative side, the number of courts is paltry, also.  Two months ago, Dara Lind of VOX (charts, below) explained

... the administration's broader plan is to deport children and families who are already here more quickly by staffing up the immigration court system. It's announced surges of immigration judges and court staff to deal with children, and with Central American adults who were apprehended alone. Once it's opened family detention centers, it will send another court surge to process cases in those detention centers.

It's also changing the way that immigration court hearings are scheduled: now, judges are instructed to hear the cases of children and families who've recently come into the US before they hear the cases of other immigrants. (That will make the wait even longer for those immigrants whose cases get bumped.)

It typically takes months or years to get a hearing in immigration court. The administration's goal is to get through a case in a matter of days. One Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) official told the press that the goal of the detention center opening in New Mexico is to deport a family within ten or fifteen days. Only a few weeks after that announcement, the government started deporting the "first wave" of families from New Mexico to Honduras.

The Republicans, of course, were of no help. The President requested $3.7 billion in supplemental funding to address the immediate problem and the GOP-controlled House responded by passing a bill providing $694 million, less than 19% of Obama's proposal. "Some Republicans," Lind noted, "have suggested that the administration simply ignore existing law so that it can quickly deport all child migrants via 'expedited removal' instead of putting them in front of an immigration judge."     When you don't like the law, just ignore it; a nation of men, not of laws, to them.  (And that would be men, not women and men.)

Making a mockery of Bill Clinton's paean to "those who play by the rules," most of the newcomers skip court while the others show up, some of them only to be deported.  In what is often described as "the richest country on earth," we won't pay to determine whether the newcomers are illegal immigrants (who should be deported) or refugees from oppression (who should not be). When there is cause, deport the individual; otherwise, let the person stay, working his or her way toward eventually becoming an American.

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