Often, the orders are being made in abstentia because asylum-seekers who came during the Central American surge a few years ago misunderstand the legal process or are afraid to show up in court, fearing immediate deportation.
The rate of in absentia deportation orders by immigration courts are increasing as judges work to resolve the asylum cases of families who streamed across the Southwest border since 2014, reports The Marshall Project. Tens of thousands of families from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, and some from Mexico, came here citing their need for protection from predatory gangs and criminal violence. Of nearly 100,000 parents and children who have come before the courts since 2014, most asking for refuge, judges have issued rulings in at least 32,500 cases, court records show. Seventy percent ended with deportation orders in absentia, pronounced by judges to empty courtrooms.
Many immigrants did not understand what they were supposed to do to pursue their claims and could not connect with lawyers to guide them. Some just stayed away, fearing they could be deported directly from courthouses and choosing instead to take their chances in the immigration underground. Immigration courts have long had high rates of in absentia rulings, with one-quarter of all cases resolved by such decisions last year. But the rate for families who came in the border surge stands out as far higher, according to the Justice Department.