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Immigrant No-Shows May Be A Case Of Confusion

Border Patrol agents make an arrest near the border outside Hidalgo, Texas.
Mónica Ortiz Uribe
Border Patrol agents make an arrest near the border outside Hidalgo, Texas.

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Immigrant No-Shows May Be A Case Of Confusion

Immigrant No-Shows May Be A Case Of Confusion

Mónica Ortiz Uribe

Border Patrol agents make an arrest near the border outside Hidalgo, Texas.

The majority of Central American migrants who entered the country illegally this year are not showing up for appointments with federal immigration officers. However, their attendance rate at immigration court is much higher.

Federal authorities released tens of thousands of Central American immigrants into the United States this year due to a lack of space in detention centers. Seventy percent have since failed to attend appointments with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officers.

The appointments are like meeting with a probation officer and help keep updated information on immigrants facing deportation.

Victor Manjarrez, a retired Border Patrol chief, isn't surprised by low turnout.  

"It's the fear of what the consequences can be, the fear of 'I'll go home, I wont be able to stay here'," he said. 

But the absentee rate at immigration court is much lower — 33 percent last year, according to the Executive Office of Immigration Review. The reasons are unclear. But it may have to do with the way immigrants are notified. Court dates can be accessed by phone. Appointments with ICE are given in document form.  

"A lot of these documents are in English," said Iliana Holguin, an immigration attorney for 14 years. "You are talking about a population that doesn't speak English, doesn't read English and may not be very literate."

Holguin said some of the no-shows could be due to confusion.

"We hear a lot of 'Oh, well they gave me a permiso,' a permit. When really that's not what's happening," she said.

Meanwhile the federal government is moving to create more detention space. A new 2,400-bed facility is scheduled to open south Texas this November.