Denied a Day in Court: The Government’s Use of In Absentia Removal Orders Against Families Seeking Asylum | CLINIC

Denied a Day in Court: The Government’s Use of In Absentia Removal Orders Against Families Seeking Asylum

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The U.S. government has issued in absentia removal orders to a large number of families primarily from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. These families fled persecution and sought safety in the United States often proving they had a credible fear of returning to their home country.

ASAP and CLINIC represented and successfully challenged the in absentia orders of 44 of 46 families before either an immigration judge or the Board of Immigration Appeals. Through this representation, ASAP and CLINIC learned that these families did not intend to abscond and instead were neither able to obtain legal representation nor navigate a complex immigration system. ASAP and CLINIC also learned that these families removed in absentia had valid asylum claims.

This report highlights the high rate of unrepresented families with valid asylum claims, features clients’ stories, discusses the obstacles families face in attending their immigration court hearings, explains how the immigration system fails families seeking asylum, and provides policy recommendations for how the Trump Administration and Congress can address these shortcomings.

 


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CONTENTS

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY........................................................................................................................4

BACKGROUND.....................................................................................................................................7

The Central American Humanitarian Crisis......................................................................................7

Expedited Removal...........................................................................................................................8

Immigration Court............................................................................................................................9

In Absentia Removals.....................................................................................................................10

GOVERNMENT DATA ON IN ABSENTIA REMOVALS............................................................................12

Legal Representation.......................................................................................................................13

In Absentia Removal Orders............................................................................................................13

Link Between Legal Representation and In Absentia Removal Orders..........................................15

CASE STUDIES: WHY ARE ASYLUM SEEKERS BEING ORDERED DEPORTED IN ABSENTIA?......16

Missing Notices..................................................................................................................................18

Government Errors and Omissions....................................................................................................20

Physical, Geographical, and Language Obstacles.............................................................................22

Trauma and Mental Health..................................................................................................................24

Absent or Ineffective Legal Representation.........................................................................................25

FINDINGS: THE REAL REASON BEHIND IN ABSENTIA ORDERS..........................................................27

POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS...................................................................................................................28

To the Department of Justice.................................................................................................................28

To the Department of Homeland Security...............................................................................................31

To the United States Congress.............................................................................................................34

CONCLUSION.................................................................................................................................................37

THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION’S RESPONSE TO CENTRAL AMERICAN ASYLUM SEEKERS.............38

GLOSSARY....................................................................................................................................................40