EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – One in six new cases coming before U.S. immigration courts is being dismissed because of missing “Notice to Appear” paperwork, a research group reports.
The dismissal rate is much higher in some dedicated docket courts designed to speed up immigration hearings. The immigration court in Miami has an 81% dismissal rate so far in fiscal year 2022; the one in Boston stands at 62% while those in Houston and El Paso report rates of 54% and 32%, respectively, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University.
The nationwide 16.6% dismissal rate dwarfs that of fiscal year 2018 (0.3%) and the 2013 rate of 0.2%, which is the oldest quoted in the study and typical of how rare dismissals use to be.
“This is the initial master calendar hearing, the equivalent of an arraignment to sort things out,” said Susan Long, statistician and co-founder of TRAC. “I’m told it means the NTA has been closed out. The big question is, what happens next? We don’t have an answer yet.”
DHS in theory can return to the court with a new notice of appeal for each case and have the court schedule a new hearing. TRAC has filed public information requests to see if that is happening.
The study says this trend coincides with a directive for field agents to schedule hearings on behalf of migrants using an Interactive Scheduling System (ISS). The electronic filings should have speeded up the process, as they immediately generate the notice to appear and allow an agent or field officer to generate a copy for the migrant.
But the process requires a follow-up. DHS agencies must ensure that the court receives a copy of the NTA.
“That this is failing to be done suggests a serious disconnect between the agents entering new cases and scheduling hearings through the court’s ISS system, and other [DHS] personnel responsible for submitting a copy to the court,” the TRAC study summary states.
Those snafus are wasting the time of immigration courts already backlogged and creating problems for the migrant and legal advisers, the study says.
Border Report on Thursday reached out to the Department of Homeland Security for comment and is awaiting a response.