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Do Most Asylum Seekers Attend Their Court Hearings

Green Card Lawyer Vineland, NJ

 With ongoing immigration issues for those seeking to come to the United States along the U.S.-Mexico border, quickly processing the thousands of people confined in temporary housing facilities along the southern United States has become a priority.

Those who have fled their home countries for safety, or those seeking political asylum, are of course, of top priority for entering the United States. Given that many of the people seeking to enter the United States right now are unaccompanied minors hoping to move in with an American family member, this issue becomes even more important to deal with quickly.

Following a March visit by U.S. senators to a border detention facility, one senator remarked that only about half of asylum seekers show up for their court cases, and that only about 15 percent of those who apply wind up qualifying for asylum.

This statement spurred questions about how many asylum seekers are going through the process of immigration hearings, which has been estimated to take about three to four years; and get the expedited U.S. citizenship that asylum status affords.

Those seeking asylum should reach out to an experienced immigration lawyer to assist with the process.

In Absentia Rates 

The Department of Justice (DOJ) reported in 2018 that 89 percent of all those seeking asylum attended their final court hearing to receive a decision, and although one might think that children who have traveled without adults might not show up for court dates, a study conducted by Syracuse University shows that if those children have access to legal counsel, 98.8 percent of them show up for court.

According to the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, 95 percent of non-detained people who applied for asylum or other forms of relief attended all their court hearings throughout 2008 to 2018.  The UPenn Law Review study found that 88 percent of immigrants with cases in immigration court attended all their court hearings.

Therefore, how did a senator come up with figures that seem so contradicted by government and academic statistics?

The answer is complex. The remarks by the senator seem to be referring to in absentia rates, as opposed to immigration court appearance rate. In absentia means an individual failed to appear and qualifies for immediate deportation.

Because deportation means that person’s case will no longer be heard in immigration court, it is considered completed.  If a judge heard two of 10 immigration cases up for the day, completing one asylum-seeker’s case on the same day he or she marks another asylum-seeker as in absentia, the person who did not attend his or her appearance is half of the completed cases for the day, wrote an American Immigration Council policy counsel in an opinion piece published by the Wall Street Journal in July 2019. The counsel noted that the other eight attending that day do not get marked as attending, because in absentia refers to the person whose case came up and was not there, not the ones who were in attendance and did not get called up.

According to a 2021 study on asylum seekers and the in absentia rate, the American Immigration Council (AIC) questioned if the immigrants who did not show for their court proceedings were made aware of the court date and time.

Citing counsel for the government in a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court case, AIC noted an admission in court that nearly 100 percent of notices issued over the three years omitted the time and date of the court proceeding. AIC pointed to the statistic as evidence that individuals seeking asylum need legal representation to find out where and when they need to attend court to further their cases.

What are the Chances of Qualifying for Asylum?

Although the individuals seeking immigration may be overwhelmingly reliable in heading to court to get their cases decided, the denial rate for asylum seekers has continued to climb, according to TRAC Immigration, a non-profit, non-partisan research unit at Syracuse University. The chances of obtaining asylum, however, greatly increase with legal representation.

According to TRAC’s study of 2020, when immigration problems, particularly at the southern U.S. border, were at an all-time high, immigration judges decided the second-highest number of asylum cases in 20 years, bested only by the number of asylum cases decided in 2019.  As in 2019, a remarkably higher percentage of those cases was denied. In 2020, over 73 percent of asylum cases were denied, up from 54.6 percent during the last year of President Obama’s administration in 2016.

Although the results of the TRAC Immigration 2020 survey do not approach the figure stated by the senator of 15 percent of asylum seekers qualifying, it brings the number a lot closer. Asylum was granted only 26 percent of the time in 2020. These cases were decided during a partial shutdown of the courts because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The TRAC Immigration survey points to the need for representation for those seeking asylum. Immigrants seeking asylum without legal representation had a 17.7 percent chance of success, whereas those with the help of a lawyer had a 31 percent chance of obtaining asylum.

Of course, many immigrants would seek asylum but cannot find a lawyer. With language barriers in the way, many were likely unable to complete the paperwork to begin the process.

What Does it Mean to Seek Asylum?

Asylum is a protection for individuals from outside the United States who arrive at the border or are in the country already and are either unable or unwilling to return to their homelands.

These individuals, which meet the international law definition of refugee, are unable to live safely in their home countries, owing to race, religion, nationality, politics, or membership in a particular social group, according to the U.S. Refugee Act of 1980. There are two paths to obtaining refugee status, either as a resettled refugee living abroad or in the United States by seeking asylum.

The protection of asylum means that the asylee will be allowed to work in the United States, apply for a Social Security card, request permission to travel overseas and petition to bring family members over to the United States, as well as apply for government programs such as Refugee Medical Assistance for health care needs.

A year after obtaining asylum, the individual can apply for a green card, which allows him or her to become a lawful permanent resident. Four years after becoming a lawful permanent resident, that individual can apply for U.S. citizenship.

Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at the MC Law Group, LLC Help Those Seeking Political Asylum

Immigration law is complex, and every asylum seeker needs expert advice on how best to approach his or her case. The Philadelphia immigration lawyers at the MC Law Group, LLC offer over 25 years of experience in political asylum and all types of immigration cases. Our lawyers are highly proficient in practicing and appearing before the Department of Homeland Security and its components, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Immigration Courts, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA); and the courts of all levels. For a free consultation, call us at 215-496-0690 or complete our online form. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout the tri-state area, including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and nationwide.

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