Hundreds of illegal immigrants in Michigan have failed to show up for deportation hearings in the past year. : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

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Illegal immigrants skip court

After arrests, many are released only to vanish November 10, 2001


Hundreds of illegal immigrants in Michigan have failed to show up for deportation hearings in the past year. Many of them had been arrested by border patrol agents as they tried to sneak into the United States from Canada, and then were released.

The situation concerns U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., whose Senate permanent subcommittee on investigations will conduct a hearing on the matter Tuesday.

"You cannot arrest people for illegally entering the country, and release them on their own word that they will show up for a hearing to remove them from the country," Levin said Friday. "I find this incredible. I find it absurd. It's particularly dangerous when the threat to our homeland is so clear."

According to Levin, from October 1999 to October 2000, U.S.Border Patrol agents and Immigration and Naturalization Service officers issued 1,766 notices to appear in Detroit's Immigration Court for hearings. Of those, 702 people did not show up.

Between Sept. 1 and Oct. 18 of this year, 208 people were arrested by border patrol agents in Michigan for illegal entry into the United States. Of that number, 88 were released on their own recognizance, Levin said.

"We have no idea how many of those 88 will show up for their hearings," Levin said. "But if history is any guide, a significant number will not. Why would they show up at a hearing to remove them?"

In previous interviews with the Free Press, Border Patrol union leaders said part of the problem is that their agency has no detention facilities. Instead, it contracts space with local jails, which are sometimes full.

When the immigrants are caught and agree to return to their own country voluntarily, they are jailed until their departure. But by requesting a hearing before an immigration judge, border-crossers can be released on their own recognizance until one is scheduled.

Border Patrol officials said Friday they release an illegal immigrant only if the person has no criminal background, and is determined not be be a flight risk.

"If we thought a person represented a threat to the community we would not release that individual," said Dan Geoghegan, chief patrol agent for the Detroit sector of the Border Patrol. "Flight is a very principal concern as well. We govern that issue in the manner we're best able."

Geoghegan said that of 2,100 immigrants arrested by border patrol agents in Michigan from October 2000 to September 2001, 65 percent waived their right to a hearing and were deported within a week of their arrests. Another 20 percent were held until a court hearing, and 15 percent were released with notices to appear in court.

But the Border Patrol doesn't track whether they show up in court. That job falls to the INS.

INS spokesman Greg Palmore said his agency doesn't pursue no-shows. "Unless they are encountered by local law enforcement for some other reason, we will not send resources out to track these individuals down," he said.

Levin said he plans to make specific recommendations to President George W. Bush and the Office of Homeland Security after Tuesday's hearing.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., toured the Detroit area Friday to inspect border crossings and meet with INS officials and Border Patrol workers.

Sensenbrenner, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said some of the money allocated in the new antiterrorism bill will find its way to Detroit. "It is obvious to me that the INS is short-staffed here," he said.

Contact TAMARA AUDI at 313-222-6582 or Staff writer Dan Shine contributed to this report.

-- K (, November 11, 2001

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