Immigrants in Texas have been showing up for immigration court hearings recently only to find that the court does not have their cases on its calendar. The court dates are set on a document called a “Notice to Appear.” These are issued by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and were supposed to either include a date for the next court hearing or carry the notation that the date is “to be determined.”
When immigrants showed up at the Dallas immigration court for their hearings on September 13, court staff told them that they had received “fake dates” from ICE, according to the Dallas News. According to the newspaper, similar “fake dates” have been placed on Notices to Appear in Los Angeles, San Diego, Chicago, Atlanta and Miami as well. Some immigrants have even been scheduled to appear at hearings on September 31, a date that does not even exist.
The problem appears to have arisen from a recent Supreme Court case that held that Notices to Appear that did not contain the date of the next court hearing were legally inadequate. Rather than contacting the immigration courts to set a hearing date, some ICE personnel apparently began inventing dates for hearings, according to the Dallas News.
In many cases the immigrants with the “fake dates” have incurred considerable expenses to go to their hearings. They have lost time at work, spent money on transportation, and hired attorneys for the appearance. Court staff have had to deal with confusion at their check-in desks. Since the court does not issue a new date for the next hearing, immigrants leave the court confused about what is going on.
Were this practice limited to one ICE office, perhaps we could write it off as the work of “a few bad apples.” But since it has been reported as a problem in at least six cities, this may be a more coordinated effort to bypass the Supreme Court’s requirement of a real court date on the Notice to Appear.
The Notice to Appear is an extremely important document in immigration law. It gets the ball rolling in immigration court proceedings. If an immigrant fails to appear on the date set for a hearing on the Notice to Appear, he or she will usually be ordered deported. Accuracy on this form is of paramount importance.
I spoke to several New York immigration attorneys to see if they have encountered the problem. So far, they have not. If a similar pattern occurs here, I will let you know.