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Immigration Policy Center
July 29, 2014

Taking Attendance: New Data Finds Majority of Children Appear in Immigration Court

As the number of unaccompanied children arriving at the United States border has increased, some lawmakers have argued that children frequently fail to appear for proceedings and thus proposed mandatory detention as a solution. Some say as many as 90 percent fail to attend their immigration court hearings. Yet government data recently published by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) indicates the opposite. Not only do a majority of children attend their immigration proceedings, according to TRAC, but 90 percent or more attend when represented by lawyers. TRAC Data Offers Comprehensive Look at Children in Immigration Court TRAC’s data, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, examines 101,850 immigration court proceedings begun while a child was under 18, from Fiscal Year (FY) 2005 through June 2014. The information tabulated in TRAC’s database includes data on both completed cases, in which there was an official outcome, and cases still pending. The data also includes information on “in absentia” cases, Latin for “in absence, “which is a term for a judicial hearing held without the individual present. Any delay in appearing at any immigration hearing may lead to a court removing someone in absentia. The Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), which runs U.S. immigration courts, uses a similar methodology of reporting “in absentia” numbers as its best available indicator of failures to show. However, EOIR has not historically broken out children’s cases. The following analysis uses the TRAC data to determine rates of appearance in court based on completed cases. Additional analysis of all cases, both completed and still pending, also provides a snapshot of overall current appearance rates to date. Children Appear in Immigration Court Analyzing TRAC’s data shows that juveniles who were not detained or released have a lower in absentia rate than previously reported. Not only do a majority of children appear in immigration court, but the vast majority of children represented by lawyers appear.

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, Syracuse University
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