200,000 Immigration Court Cases Dismissed Because DHS Failed to File Paperwork
(20 Mar 2024) Approximately 200,000 deportation cases have been thrown out by Immigration Judges since the start of the Biden administration because the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) hadn’t filed the required Notice to Appear (NTA) with the Court by the time of the scheduled hearing. Without a proper filing, the Court lacks jurisdiction to hear the case and the immigrants, often asylum seekers, lack a way to move their case forward.

DHS’s duty to file NTAs in Immigration Court is an essential step in the immigration enforcement process. The NTA alleges that the agency has reason to believe that the individual can and should be deported, lists these reasons, and asks an Immigration Judge to issue a removal order. However, because DHS now has access to the Court’s scheduling system, DHS employees can schedule Immigration Court hearings sooner than the agency can file the NTA. As a result, DHS has been able to block off the Court’s valuable limited time by scheduling hearings for cases that do not legally exist yet. With Immigration Judges staring down 3.5 million pending immigration cases, every wasted hearing is a hearing that could have moved another case forward or resolved it.

TRAC found that DHS’s performance on filing timely NTAs is improving. So far during FY 2024, monthly average dismissals – while still too high – are down 68 percent from their peak during FY 2022. Dismissal rates also varied greatly by geography. For example, the Houston, Texas, Immigration Court and the Court’s Dedicated Docket in Miami, Florida, are clear standouts, with fifty (50) percent or more of their new cases dismissed for this reason since FY 2021.

To rectify the Court’s dismissals, DHS cannot generally restart each case without issuing a new NTA, which restarts the removal proceeding under a new file number. TRAC, using newly obtained records, has now been able to track these dismissals. Only in a quarter of these Court cases has DHS actually rectified its mistake by filing a new NTA.

Again, there were wide differences among hearing locations on whether DHS filed a new NTA to restart the case. The Dedicated Docket hearing locations in El Paso and Los Angeles, for example, had refiling rates of 68 percent and 77 percent, respectively. In contrast, in Miami, DHS for Dedicated Docket cases there refiled in just 25 percent of their cases despite that Court’s high dismissal rates. Refiling rates by DHS at Baltimore, Maryland’s hearing location was just 2 percent.

Further details, including information on 90 larger Immigration Court hearing locations, are contained in the full report.

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