• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • A Broken Immigration Court System

    We all know how bad the federal government is at controlling our border, but we face the same problem in the system set up to handle immigration cases. Many people do not realize that illegal aliens who are caught end up in immigration courts that are part of the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review. These courts are presided over by administrative judges; they are not Article III federal courts.

    On Thursday, as BP’s CEO was being pummeled on Capitol Hill, the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law held a hearing of its own. Mark Metcalf, a former immigration judge, was one of the witnesses, and he had some startling testimony that went completely unnoticed by the media (full disclosure: Mark and I worked together at the Justice Department).

    Mark Metcalf’s research on the deceptive statistics released by the Justice Department is quite shocking. From 1996 to 2008, the U.S. allowed 1.8 million aliens (many of them here illegally) to remain free upon their promise to appear in court when their cases were scheduled to be heard, and 736,000 of them never showed up for their hearings. After 9/11, court evasion by illegal aliens exploded — from 2002 to 2006, over 50 percent of all aliens summoned to court disappeared.

    Of course, you’d never know this from the numbers reported by the EOIR, because it masks the true numbers by manipulating its statistics. For example, in 2005 and 2006 EOIR reported to Congress that the “overall failure” rate of aliens “to appear” in court was only 39 percent. The real number of aliens who were free pending their court date who then failed to appear was actually 59 percent. EOIR got the deceptively lower 39 percent figure by combining the appearance rates for aliens who were free pending a hearing and aliens who were actually in jail! That is ridiculous and clearly does not give a true picture of the problem, since someone sitting in jail is not capable of skipping out on his court hearing, at least not without committing the further crime of breaking out of jail. But combining those groups makes the skip rate look lower than it really is.

    Only 9 percent of aliens who lose their cases actually bother to appeal; most of them just walk away and disappear. Those dodging deportation orders issued by immigration judges number in the hundreds of thousands. In 2002, there were 602,000 backlogged deportation orders; in 2008, 558,000 remained unenforced. (Of those ordered deported, 45,000 were illegal aliens from countries that, according to DHS, abet terror.) The highest arrest rate for aliens ordered deported was achieved in 2008 when 6.1 percent were apprehended.

    One of the biggest reasons for this is not just the lack of resources given to our immigration enforcement agencies, but the fact that because the immigration judges are just administrative judges and employees of the Justice Department, they have no ability to enforce their orders. So enforcement of all of these deportation orders is left up to the whims of the political appointees who run DHS and set the priorities of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, and whose lackadaisical attitude is one of the reasons that Arizona felt compelled to act on its own.

    In August 2009, ICE announced it would not remove aliens who skipped court or disobeyed orders to leave the U.S., which gives even more incentives to illegal aliens to treat both our laws and our courts with contempt. So, as Mark pointedly says, “noncitizens who disobey immigration court orders are treated remarkably better than their citizen” counterparts in state and federal courts who are subject to arrest, contempt and incarceration for disobeying court orders.

    I can’t think of any word more appropriate to describe this situation than appalling. And no one in this administration seems to have any interest in doing anything to fix this broken system other than to relax all enforcement of our immigration laws and just open up the borders. Oh, yes, and sue Arizona for trying to enforce the law.

    This was cross-posted at The Corner.

    Posted in Legal [slideshow_deploy]

    14 Responses to A Broken Immigration Court System

    1. Diane, corona says:

      We have become a nation that does not enforce law. At every level from the National to the state to the county to the city! Even in our schools. We are teaching our children that our government rewards bad behavior! A teacher at CNUSD who just retired was honored for 30 years of service, they forgot to mention the part where she tried to change her daughters transcripts to reflect A's! She gets rewarded for bad behavior!

    2. sandi151 says:

      This seems "appropo". How can the liberals in Congress push thru comprehensive immigration reform if the truth were known here?

    3. Pingback: » Links To Visit – 06/21/10 NoisyRoom.net: The Progressive Hunter

    4. Vote Democratic Part says:

      Thanks Obama! Please take a look at this post and OPEN your EYES AMERICA!

      New Tourist Attraction Facilitated by Washington DC

      US Mexican Border.


    5. Vote Democratic Part says:

      Thanks Obama!

      Americans really need to take a look at this post! Please open up your eyes and see what is going on!

      New Tourist Attraction Facilitated by Washington DC

      US Mexican Border

    6. Vote Democratic Part says:

      Thanks Obama!

      Americans really need to take a look at this post! Please open up your eyes and see what is going on!

      New Tourist Attraction Facilitated by Washington DC

      US Mexican Border

    7. Vote Democratic Part says:

      Thanks Obama!

      Americans really need to take a look at this post! Please open up your eyes and see what is going on!

      New Tourist Attraction Facilitated by Washington DC

      US Mexican Border


    8. Pingback: Treating External Hemorrhoids | Hemorrhoid Medicine Review

    9. randy sa,tx says:

      it very hypocritical that we call our country a "christian nation" but will not lend a helping hand for people that are trying to feed their family,friend and themselves.Christinanity only applies if your white and not brown.

    10. randy sa,tx says:

      it very hypocritical that we call our country a "christian nation" but will not lend a helping hand for people that are trying to feed their family,friend and themselves.Christinanity only applies if your white.

    11. randy sa,tx says:

      what is going on with my post? i just want to know if my post are welcomed or not.

    12. Dan, Arvada CO says:

      randy sa,tx is out to lunch with his criticism.

      Would he suggest that we break the law (aid and abet) those who commit an ILLEGAL ACT to enter (invade) our country? After all, Al Capone was only trying to provide a "better life" for his "family" and all he got nabbed for was for TAX EVASION!

      The people that are running drugs across our borders–randy seems to feel they are all non-white– could also claim they are merely trying to provide a better life for themselves.

      Please, randy, try to sell your RACIST ARGUMENTS to someone as gullible to propaganda as you are.

    13. William Holbrook, Ch says:

      Wake up, America. We are being invaded, not by an invading army but by the thousands of illegal immigrants who have disrespected and disobeyed our immigration laws. Our elected officials in Washington, including in both Congress and the White House, have chosen not to enforce our immigration laws. Our country has always welcomed immigrants who come here legally. We are a nation of immigrants. The trend in recent years of allowing anyone to walk across our borders and establish residence here without screening and adherence to the legal requirements for immigration should not be allowed to continue. Also all illegal immigrants who are here should be identified, pay whatever is the appropriate penalty for breaking our immigration laws, and either put on a path for future citizenship if they qualify or otherwise deported and sent back home. Also in order to facilitate the identification of illegal immigrants all American businesses or individuals who are employers should be required to screen their employees' immigration status and report any who are here illegally. There should be a heavy penalty or high fine for employers not complying and cooperating with the government by identifying and reporting all illegal immigrants they have hired. This would bring the thousands of illegal immigrants out of the shadows and into the light of being able to become real Americans. Also it would allow the government to screen out the people who should not be allowed to become American citizens due to criminal activities etc. We have always been proud to be a nation of laws. Why should our immigration laws be so disregarded as is the case now? The most likely explanation for our government officials not enforcing our laws must be that doing so would have undesirable political effects on the voting block of the immigrant population that is here legally and able to vote now and the many more who are illegal now but will no doubt be part of large family voting blocks in the future. Any public official who does not enforce our laws for this reason should be voted out of office, from the White House, halls of Congress on down. Not only is overlooking the presence of illegal immigrants disrespectful of our being a nation of laws almost equally important it is not fair to many of our legal citizens who find themselves unemployed because illegals are taking jobs away from lawful citizens. Probably most of the illegal immigrant employees are being underpaid, since their employment cannot be rightly reported, and probably social security taxes etc are not being withheld. Therefore illegal immigration's affect, though primarily on the job market, is adversely affecting all of us. It is very obvious that the President, his cabinet (especially the Secretaries of State, Homeland Security and Treasury) are not doing the job the American public hired or approved their appointment to do. Hopefully the American public will wake up and insist that all illegal immigrants be brought out of the shadow of being a hidden underclass in our society and the rule of law be reestablished. If this is not done and the problem of illegal immigration is allowed to continue to fester then the American electorate needs to wake up and send a new and more responsible group of officials to Washington to occupy the seats of power in the White House and the Capitol. Obviously these seats should be occupied by statesmen and not politicians. A good statesman has political savvy buy a pure politician does not primarily think in terms of statesmanship. Our officials in Washington so far have been more political than statesmen, but hopefully the tide will turn.

    14. Lewis Munn. Roundup. says:

      Anyone know?

      How much of the extra SS taxes, and cuts in benefits, would be avoided if all illegals were kicked out today?

      Some of us Grandparents might get to watch our children grow up even! Where are the rights of the old people? Where is our right to life? Where is our right to liberty? Where is our right to pursue happiness?

      Old people have rights too!! And we have accumulated wisdom that when we are snuffed will never be imparted to our grandchildren!! Why are you "Champions of Liberty" not taking our part too??


    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.