A claim that 96 percent of asylum seekers dutifully appear for their U.S. immigration court hearings is an encouraging bit of news.
If only it were true.
Three immigration lawyers made the rosy assertion in a recent Washington Post opinion piece. The trio purported to analyze 15 years of court records and concluded that the perennially backlogged and widely criticized court system isn’t broken after all.
Former federal immigration judge Mark Metcalf knows better. He calculates that 43 percent of asylum seekers with court orders to appear never showed up for their hearings in 2016.
“Asylum seekers are primarily those who run from court and those who abscond from removal orders,” Metcalf told FAIR. “Immigration courts for years gamed failure-to-appear rates. As a judge, I knew their figures were wrong.”
Exposing the manipulation game played by immigration enthusiasts using official court data, Metcalf explained:
“Instead of calculating the failure-to-appear rate by taking the number of aliens free before trial who missed court out of all those who were free before trial, the courts pursued a different calculation.
“They took the number who skipped trial out of the much larger number of those who were free before trial plus those who were detained before trial. Including the detained (people who can’t miss court) in an equation measuring failure-to-appear rates produced the desired effect. It enlarged the denominator, shrank the numerator and gamed this important metric.
“A much reduced — and less alarming — failure-to-appear rate resulted,” he concluded.
Jessica Vaughn, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, says the research behind the Post essay was fundamentally flawed because it only covered cases where the asylum process and proceedings were started while a family was still in custody.
“Of course they attended those hearings; they were in detention and had to go to them,” Vaughn noted.
“In half of the cases of parents with children seeking asylum, they aren’t in detention for very long (roughly 14 days) and once they are released, they don’t bother even filing an asylum application, much less go to a hearing,” she added.
Vaughn characterized the Post op-ed as “a desperate and dishonest attempt to counter the real life narrative.” To wit:
“Most illegally arriving parents seeking asylum are doing so not because they actually were persecuted or have a genuine fear of return, but because that’s what they have heard they should say that will get them released into the United States to live happily ever after, even without legal status.”