WASHINGTON— A staggering 31,725 illegal immigrants from countries that aid and abet terrorist organizations received deportation orders from U.S. immigration courts from 2003 through 2015, but what became of them is anyone’s guess, finds a report by a former immigration judge at the behest of the Center for Immigration Studies.
Immigration court records are silent.
In fact, some 3,095 of these aliens fled their hearings, among them 338 people from Iran, Sudan, and Syria, nations the State Department declares state sponsors of terrorism.
Mark H. Metcalf, a former judge on the Miami Immigration Court, authored the report that documents how illegal aliens easily cross U.S. borders or enter on forged travel documents and, when ordered to court, ignore their court dates.
Federal law — 18 U.S.C. § 3146 — imposes penalties from one year to 15 years in prison for those who fail to show up for federal court proceedings. Yet those who dodge immigration court are treated much differently. They can literally abandon their cases without fear of incarceration or removal and, in turn, imperil national and domestic security. American immigration courts, in fact, have the highest failure to appear rate of any court-system in the nation.
From 1996 through 2015, just under 1 million people the U.S. alleged were present illegally or had forfeited their right to remain by committing crimes simply missed their court dates and became fugitives, most never to be seen again.
“Over the past 20 years, 37 percent of all aliens free pending their trials — 918,098 out of 2,498,375 — never showed for court,” Metcalf explains. “Courtrooms, like borders, are porous. On average, 46,000 people each year vanished from proceedings created specifically for those claiming persecution in the lands they called home.”
An alarming number of those who evaded court are from countries that sponsor terror. Asylum statistics show that from 2003 through 2015 show 62,409 people came from the 36 nations labeled Specially Designated Countries because they “promote, produce, or protect terrorist organizations or their members.”
“Of these, 24,975 applications were granted and 20,393 were denied. Another 8,237 applicants withdrew their requests for asylum prior to a trial court issuing a decision on their applications,” Metcalf reports. “A total of 31,725 applicants — 51 percent altogether — were either ordered removed or sought another method to remain in the United States by withdrawing their applications.”
During this 12-year period, 576,893 aliens failed their appearances in immigration courts. Among them numbered 3,095 aliens from the SDCs.
“No accounting from the courts or DHS tells Congress or the public what eventually became of these people once inside American borders,” Metcalf warns. “Though some certainly were in custody and were removed after their applications were denied, others were released and absconded from their asylum hearings, while others disappeared after an order of removal was issued. All that is known is that more half of all applicants did not receive grants of asylum.”
Applicants from countries identified as state sponsors of terrorism — Iran, Sudan, and Syria —comprised a disproportionate share of those who apply for asylum and then disappear from court proceedings.
“Of the 62,409 asylum applications that came from the 36 SDCs, 10 percent or 6,279 came from Iran, Sudan, and Syria. From these three countries alone came 11 percent or 338 of those who absconded from court from a total of 3,095. Only 9 percent were granted asylum, or 2,261 out of 24,975, and only 8 percent — 1,699 out of 20,393 — experienced denial of their asylum claims,” Metcalf reports.
Despite the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and the measures taken to make the nation more secure after 9/11, the federal government continued to handle illegal immigration carelessly. Court evasion increased dramatically after September 11, 2001.
“From 1996 through 2000, 251,309 of the 726,164 aliens free pending trial disappeared. Fully 35 percent of those persons the United States allowed to remain free before trial never showed for court,” Metcalf writes. “In the five years following 9/11 — from 2002 through 2006 — failures to appear exploded. Fifty percent of all of litigants free pending trial — 360,199 out of 713,974 — skipped their hearings.”
Ambivalent to national security and the safety of the American public, immigration courts misled Congress about the number of illegals who fail to appear in court by gaming the numbers. In some years, failure to appear rates were under-reported by more than 100 percent.
“Instead of a direct comparison of all those aliens free before trial who failed to make court out of all aliens free before trial, the courts compared those who failed to appear to the much larger number of all those who were free before trial plus all who were detained before trial,” Metcalf writes. “The many multiple opportunities for the courts to provide Congress and the public with critical analysis have been ignored at oversight hearings and in annual reports throughout the courts’ history.”
He continues: “Within the raw memory of the fallen World Trade Center towers in New York, 59 percent of aliens free on their own recognizance fled their hearings in 2005 and 2006. Yet the courts stated with the straightest of bureaucratic faces that only 39 percent went missing. Rather than tell Congress that three-fifths of those summoned to immigration courts never showed in these years, the easy way out was the old way out.”
After interviewing judges on immigration courts from across the country Metcalf found that they faced risk of retaliation for exposing the lax implementation of immigration law under former-President Barrack Obama. None Metcalf interviewed were willing for their names to be used.
“Judges on immigration courts across the country … spoke on background only, fearing their statements would prompt retaliation from superiors within the Executive Office for Immigration Review, the agency that manages the courts,” Metcalf writes. “They describe a system plunged into turmoil by appointees at the Department of Justice and Homeland Security who ignored statutes, precedent, and regulation and imposed policies that dramatically increased backlogs and nearly halted adjudication.”
Fourteen years after 9/11, failure to appear rates remain stubbornly high and are on the rise. Since 2012 failure to appear have increased 95 percent. The FTA rate of 43 percent in 2015 is the highest number since 2006, when 59 percent of aliens free pending trial never made it to court.
The report says the Obama administration’s dictates on the Department of Homeland Security practically halted immigration trials. Backlogged cases that stood at 186,000 when George W. Bush left office in 2008 today stand at 542,000 — a 300 percent increase in just 8 years. All the while, DHS prosecuted fewer cases and deported fewer of those ordered removed from the U.S.
Under the Obama administration, ICE agents were required to release or ignore illegal alien offenders unless they had serious criminal records.
“At least three misdemeanors were required to invoke arrest and removal, but not just any misdemeanors,” Metcalf writes. “ICE leadership demanded offenses such as domestic violence, sexual offenses, and third offense DUIs before its enforcement officers could arrest an illegal alien, even if they’d previously been ordered removed. Removal orders, as it turned out, meant less and less to that administration.”
Absurdly, U.S. citizens and legal aliens faced harsher penalties for violating the law than illegal aliens under Obama administration protocols, Metcalf argues.
“Were citizens, visa holders, or lawful permanent residents to commit crimes that ICE declared insufficient to arrest and remove an illegal entrant — crimes such as shoplifting and identity theft, low-level DUIs, misdemeanor assaults, and illegal voting — law enforcement response would be prompt and certain. Criminal proceedings would follow with records generated that would influence federal and state enforcement efforts in the event of future offenses. Visa holders would be denied extensions of their U.S. stays or become inadmissible when applying to reenter. Lawful permanent residents would be subject to removal proceedings for committing crimes of moral turpitude or aggravated felonies,” he writes. “But in the inverse world of immigration enforcement, ICE officers were directed to not only avoid taking into custody aliens who committed criminal offenses like these, but to release them or, in the alternative, cease prosecuting them.”
CIS entitled Metcalf’s article “Courting Disaster.” Metcalf says it accurately depicts the present condition of the courts. He writes: “’Courting Disaster’ is not an accident but, instead, a policy disconnected from rule of law and common sense that counts dysfunction as success and disorder as the price of progress, even at the loss of American jobs and the cost of American lives.”