The Department of Justice does not have receipts for more than half of the unaccompanied alien children apprehended at the southwest border by Border Patrol since the start of fiscal year 2013, government records show.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection data show more than 85,000 total apprehensions of unaccompanied alien children during fiscal year 2013 and fiscal year 2014 through June. Information from the same time period provided to National Review Online by the DOJ’s Executive Office for Immigration Review shows 41,592 total receipts marked as juvenile in immigration courts. Kathryn Mattingly, spokesperson for EOIR, tells NRO the receipts refer to new Notices to Appear (NTA) — the document the Department of Homeland Security uses to charge an illegal immigrant with being removable from the United States.
EOIR has recorded 20,814 receipts marked as juvenile in fiscal year 2014 as of June 30, but Border Patrol recorded 57,525 apprehensions of unaccompanied alien children during the same time frame. This means immigration courts have receipts for fewer than four out of every ten unaccompanied alien children apprehended by Border Patrol this fiscal year. Mattingly said EOIR stands behind the numbers of receipts it has recorded, but would not speak about the difference between the number of juvenile receipts and CBP’s apprehension data.
Within DHS, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services have the authority to charge unaccompanied alien children. An ICE spokesperson declined to comment on this story, and a USCIS spokesperson referred questions to DHS, which did not respond to requests for comment. A CBP spokesperson responded to NRO’s requests in an e-mail with a link to apprehension data publicly available on CBP’s website but did not provide comment about the number of NTAs issued to illegal-immigrant children.
Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, tells NRO it is difficult to determine how much of the discrepancy in apprehensions and receipts appears deliberate and how much resulted because federal officials were overwhelmed with work. “But I think it’s really willful negligence on the part of DHS leadership to allow this already dysfunctional system to become even more overwhelmed,” she says. “It’s just like deliberate chaos.”
Immigration courts have completed only 9,630 cases marked as juvenile in fiscal year 2014, government data show, despite more than 20,000 juvenile receipts recorded and more than 57,000 UAC apprehensions made in fiscal year 2014 as of June 30, 2014. Mattingly tells NRO it’s important to remember that some of the juvenile cases completed this year may have been first brought in previous years. Not all of the cases completed in fiscal year 2014 were brought in fiscal year 2014.
Part of the discrepancy between the numbers of apprehensions and receipts in the month of June 2014 may be attributable to a new policy implemented by ICE that same month. The policy makes ICE attorneys wait to file immigration-court proceedings until after the Department of Health and Human Services notifies ICE that the unaccompanied juvenile has been placed with a sponsor, or 60 days elapse, ICE spokesperson Virginia Kice has previously told NRO. She said the policy is intended to free up immigration courts’ dockets by eliminating the need for change of venue hearings. While the new policy could explain some of the discrepancy for June 2014, it does not apply to the discrepancy for the previous months of fiscal year 2014 and for the entirety of fiscal year 2013.
No federal official whom NRO contacted or spoke with provided an explanation as to why the discrepancy exists among apprehensions of unaccompanied alien children and receipts for juveniles.
— Ryan Lovelace is a William F. Buckley Jr. Fellow at the National Review Institute.