ICE: Many Immigrants Skip Court Hearings

Many of the immigrants here in San Diego will not be heard from again after being released from custody.

About 33 percent of immigrants released by U.S. Customs and Border Enforcement (ICE) does not show up for their immigration hearings, according to immigration court officials. Border Patrol union representative Gabe Pacheco cites a Washington Examiner report that puts that number as high as 90 percent for juveniles.

The immigrants are now awaiting processing, which will include being assigned a number, having their photos taken and being fingerprinted if over age 14, Pacheco said. Then, they will turned over to ICE and released into United States to await their court dates. There is no time estimate about when that will happen.

“Historically, what’s going to happen is they may be they may be dropped off at a public conveyance bus stop or they might go down to 880 Front Street (the citizenship office) depending on what’s going on,” Pacheco said.

Most of the children in Murrieta will be going to live with relatives and friends outside Southern California, according to ICE.

“They may have a phone number of a relative someplace. They may have a destination. So they will be released on a promise they’re going to come back for an immigration hearing,” Pacheco said.

At an immigration hearing, an ICE attorney representing the government and a lawyer representing the immigrant – known as the respondent – will present their cases to an immigration judge. They can ask for asylum based on safety concerns in their home country or a U-Visa.

“It’s a life of fear. What will the next step be? How will they find me? Is it going to be like traffic court?” said immigration attorney Jacob Sapochnick.

If the respondent does not show up to court, they will be put on the removal list. It is up to ICE’s Fugitive Operations Teams to find them.

To illustrate the scope of the problem, ICE was looking for more than 469,000 people in 2012. This included immigrants who didn’t show up to court, those ordered to self-deport and those wanted for violating the terms of their immigration.

San Diego’s immigration court is located downtown, but most of these immigrants will go to courts closer to where they are living. If they do not show up for court, the person they are living with will not be held responsible.

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