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Nearly 600,000 migrants let into US without court dates since March 2021

Migrants from Central America and Mexico await the outcome of their U.S. immigration court cases. (Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
February 12, 2023

Nearly 600,000 illegal migrants have been released into the U.S. over the last two years without any date to appear in court under policies that were meant to help handle the record surge in border crossers.

In the past, migrants caught illegally crossing the border have been given documents with a court date to determine whether they’ll be deported. But under policies launched since a record surge began in March 2021, more than 800,000 have been released without court dates, NBC News reported.

Of those, only about 214,000 were later issued charging documents with court dates, meaning about 588,000 are likely somewhere in the U.S. with no clear path through the immigration process, according to data reviewed by NBC.

In late March 2021, officials first began issuing migrants “notices to report” at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement office rather than “notices to appear” in court. The move was originally “intended to mitigate operational challenges, including risks to national security, during significant surges of illegal migration as currently exist in the Rio Grande Valley,” according to a document reviewed by NBC.

The policy is now in effect across the whole southern border, NBC reported.

READ MORE: VIDEOS: 1,000+ migrants cross US-Mexico border into Texas

Immigration attorney Jeremy McKinney, who is president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said he “couldn’t believe what I was seeing” when he first saw the “notice to report” documents without a court date.

“It just leads to more confusion amongst the population that are the ones fleeing persecution and torture,” McKinney said. “You’re putting them into this confusing spiral where they don’t actually have court for several years and they’re missing out on the opportunity to apply for asylum.”

Encounters between migrants and border agents are at their highest levels in two decades after spiking from a historic low in April 2020, according to the Pew Research Center.