Trump Was Wrong to Claim That Just 1% of Immigrants Show up for Hearings. Here’s Why.

Photo by Dennis Maliepaard on Unsplash

Why Immigration Hearing Attendance Matters

Under international and US law, immigrants who are fleeing persecution have a right to request asylum. Due to the complexity of asylum cases (and immigration law more generally) as well as the backlog of cases in the immigration courts, asylum cases often take months or years from start to finish. During this time, an asylum-seeker will often hire an attorney, assemble documents and evidence in support of their case, and attend shorter “check-in” hearings with the courts. At the end of the asylum process, an immigration judge decides if asylum is granted. If an asylum-seeker does not attend a hearing, an immigration judge may issue a removal order (i.e. order them deported) in their absence, what is known as an “in absentia” removal order.

Understanding the Data

Given the significant policy consequences for claims about immigration court appearances, it is important to understand whether the data supports the claim that immigrants fail to appear for their hearings.

See the Data for Yourself

Recognizing the importance of providing the public with information about hearing attendance, TRAC recently improved its online immigration court tools to show this information.

Screenshot of TRAC’s deportation proceedings tool with options chosen to show low rates of in absentia deportation orders.

Was Trump Right? No.

So, was Trump right: do only 1% of immigrants attend their hearings? The answer is resoundingly “no.” Trump’s error is not merely a rounding mistake or an innocent misquoting of legitimate data. The claim that only 1% of immigrants attend their hearings is simply borrowed from a long line of anti-immigrant activists and politicians who fabricate data to support a pro-deportation agenda that seeks to close America to people lawfully seeking refuge.

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Austin Kocher, PhD

Austin Kocher, PhD

I study America’s immigration enforcement system. Assistant Professor at TRAC. Graduate of OSU Geography. Online at austinkocher.com.