Thousands of recent Texas border crossing cases still undecided

By Robert Arnold - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - After six months of requests, Local 2 Investigates received information regarding the status of thousands of unaccompanied children and families caught illegally crossing the southern border over the summer and fall.

Total numbers are not yet available. The information provided to Local 2 by officials with the Executive Office of Immigration Review deal with those caught crossing the border between July 18 and Oct. 28 of this year.

Thousands of families from Central America caught crossing the border had to be released on their own recognizance because there wasn't enough detention space. All were ordered to appear before an immigration judge at a later date.

According to the EOIR, of the 30,467 families and unaccompanied children caught crossing the border between July and October, only 22 percent have received a final disposition as to whether they will be allowed to stay in the U.S. or be deported.

Of the 15,614 families caught crossing the border, but not detained, 4,197 have been ordered removed from the U.S. However, 96 percent of those removal orders were done "in absentia."

The EOIR states an "in absentia" order is done when a person fails to show in immigration court.

Out of the 1,428 families caught crossing the border and detained, 21 have been ordered removed. Forty-three percent of these orders were done "in absentia."

Of the 13,425 unaccompanied children caught crossing the border between July and October, 1,671 have been ordered removed from the U.S. Ninety-two percent of these orders were done "in absentia."

Typically the EOIR reports an annual 11 to 15 percent "in absentia" rate.

On Friday, officials with the Department of Homeland Security reiterated all those caught crossing the border after Jan. 1 are a top priority to have their cases decided in immigration court and to track down those who've disappeared.

Federal officials said it could take months or possibly years to reach a disposition in all pending immigration cases.

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