Do immigrants attend their immigration court hearings? This question is central to current debates about the immigration court system. Contrary to claims by the government that most immigrants fail to appear in immigration court, our analysis of data provided by the federal government reveals that 83% of all nondetained immigrants with completed or pending removal cases from Fiscal Years (FY) 2008 through 2018 attended all of their court hearings. Among those who were represented by counsel during the same time period, 96% attended all of their court hearings. Moreover, we reveal that 15% of those who were ordered deported because they didn't appear in court successfully reopened their cases and had their removal orders rescinded. This crucial finding suggests that many individuals who fail to appear in court wanted to attend their hearings but never received notice or faced hardship in getting to court.
This report provides accurate information, based on independent analysis of government data, of the rate at which immigrants attend court. It sheds light on the concerted effort made by immigrants to comply with the law so as to increase transparency to policymakers and the public. The report provides a detailed analysis of the frequency of in absentia orders and discusses the important relationship between appearance rates and representation by counsel, applications for relief, and court location. Taken together, this data-driven report lays bare the lie that noncitizens never appear in court. It also serves as a necessary guide for the newly elected administration of President Joe Biden, which has the opportunity to take a fresh look at immigration policy and implement the data-driven policy recommendations discussed in the report's conclusion.