200,000 deportation cases dismissed because DHS failed to file paperwork

Because DHS did not file 200,000 NTAs with their respective courts, the courts had no jurisdiction to hear them and the cases were dismissed.
Homeland Security.

About 200,000 deportation cases have been thrown out by immigration judges, according to a new report published by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.

TRAC researchers evaluated data from January 2021 to February 2024 and found that 200,000 asylum or other immigration cases were dismissed because the Department of Homeland Security didn’t file paperwork with the courts in time for scheduled hearings.

TRAC, a nonpartisan, nonprofit data research center, is affiliated with the Newhouse School of Public Communications and Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University.

One of the policies implemented by DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for which he was impeached relates to changing the detention and removal process. This included mass releasing illegal foreign nationals into the country who were given a Notice to Appear before an immigration court at a future date and location. In 2023, The Center Square first reported that Hondurans who illegally entered the country were being released by Border Patrol agents after giving them NTAs with court dates at an immigration court in North Carolina in 2026.

NTAs state that the individual listed on it is in the U.S. illegally and is subject for removal. A Honduran’s NTA obtained by The Center Square, for example, states: “You are an arriving alien. The Department of Homeland Security alleges that you: 1. Are not a citizen or national of the United States; 2. You are a native of Honduras and citizen of Honduras; 3. On or about May 2, 2023, you applied for admission to the United States at a Brownsville, Texas, Port of Entry; 4. You are an immigrant not in possession of a valid unexpired immigrant visa, reentry permit, border crossing card or other valid entry document required by the Immigration and Naturalization Act.

“On the basis of the forgoing it is charged that you are subject to removal from the United States pursuant to” several federal laws listed.

By law, DHS is required to file the NTA with the court listed on it. DHS issuing an NTA “simply gives notice to the individual that they may be placed in removal proceedings,” the Immigrant Legal Resources Center explains. The actual process for removal does not begin until DHS files the NTA with an immigration court. “Once an NTA is filed with the immigration court and removal proceedings officially begin, an immigrant is on the path to potential removal from the United States,” it states.

TRAC explains, “DHS’s duty to file NTAs in Immigration Court is an essential step in the immigration enforcement process.” It also notes that of the one million cases already initiated in fiscal 2024, 97% are removal cases for which DHS must file an NTA.

Ten years ago, DHS’s failure to file an NTA before the first scheduled hearing “was rare,” TRAC notes. “However, the frequency increased once Border Patrol agents and other DHS personnel were given access to the Immigration Court’s Interactive Scheduling System,” creating a range of problems.

TRAC researchers found that DHS personnel were scheduling immigration court hearings before NTAs were filed. As a result, DHS blocked off courts’ “valuable limited time by scheduling hearings for cases that do not legally exist, because DHS has not filed the required NTA before the hearing.”

Because DHS did not file 200,000 NTAs with their respective courts, the courts had no jurisdiction to hear them and the cases were dismissed. Dismissed cases need new NTAs to start the process over.

“These large numbers of dismissals and what then happens raise serious concerns,” TRAC says.

TRAC evaluated data to determine which removal proceedings were dismissed but restarted within a year. It found that “only around a quarter of these individuals who had their cases dismissed for lack of a filed NTA had their Court cases restarted within one year by DHS issuing a new NTA. This suggests that in three-quarters of these 200,000 cases, the immigrant was effectively left in legal limbo without any way to pursue asylum or other means of relief.”

TRAC researchers also identified a pattern: NTA-related monthly case dismissals averaged more than 6,600 in fiscal 2022 and more than 5,700 a month in fiscal 2023.

The largest number of dismissals were in Houston, Miami, Los Angeles and El Paso, according to the data.

“The Houston, Texas, Immigration Court and the Court’s Dedicated Docket in Miami, Florida, are clear standouts,” the report notes, with 50% or more of new cases dismissed because DHS didn’t file NTAs since fiscal 2021.

The next greatest number of dismissals for the same reason were at the El Paso Dedicated Docket and the Los Angeles Dedicated Docket, with dismissal rates of 30% and 26%, respectively.

The data evaluated also shows that the refiling rates were low.

TRAC concluded, “the almost total lack of transparency on where and why these DHS failures occurred” is “troubling” as is “the lack of solid information on what happened to these many immigrants when DHS never rectified its failure by reissuing and filing new NTAs to restart their Court cases.”

In response to its findings, two U.S. House committees launched an investigation.