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July 17, 2014

60 to 70 percent of Central American kids are showing up to immigration court
By Dara Lind

Earlier this week, the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a data analysis hub run out of Syracuse University, released data on children in immigration court over the last decade. Not all of these are children who entered the US unaccompanied, but most of them probably are. When a child doesn't show up to immigration court, he or she is marked "in absentia" and the case is closed almost always with a removal order. But a judicial removal order for a child who can't be found, skeptics say, doesn't mean much. So knowing how many children show up becomes an important part of knowing whether the system is working. Previous data had shown that about 20 to 30 percent of children didn't show up for their court hearings. The TRAC data shows that that's still holding true. Of all the kids with cases filed over the last decade whose cases have been closed, 31 percent were "in absentia." That percentage is a little higher for cases filed over the last few years, possibly because there are more cases that are still pending from that time. But the important question is: are Central American kids more likely to skip out on their immigration court hearings than other children? And the answer to that might be surprising. This chart looks at children whose cases were filed in 2012, 2013, and 2014 i.e. those who have arrived during the current surge and whose cases have been completed as of June 30, 2014. (Many children whose cases have been filed since 2012 are still in the court process, so they theoretically have another chance to show up.) That means that it's a good reflection of how many children who have come from Central America during the current surge end up skipping out on their hearings. The data shows that Guatemalan children, at least, really do skip out on court hearings slightly more often than other children. But children from Honduras and particularly El Salvador are slightly more likely to show up for court hearings than children from other countries.

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, Syracuse University
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