House Republicans Investigating Reported Biden-Era Rise in Illegal Immigration Cases Dismissed Over Paperwork Errors

House Republicans Investigating Reported Biden-Era Rise in Illegal Immigration Cases Dismissed Over Paperwork Errors
Illegal immigrants wait in line to be processed by the Border Patrol at a makeshift camp near the U.S.-Mexico border east of Jacumba, San Diego County, Calif., on Jan. 2, 2024. (Guillermo Arias/AFP via Getty Images)

The Republican-led House Judiciary Committee opened a new line of investigation on Wednesday into a sharp rise in the number of immigration cases that have been dismissed since President Joe Biden took office.

The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), a data research organization sponsored by Syracuse University, released a report last month estimating 192,861 immigration cases had been dismissed since the start of Fiscal Year 2021 because U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) personnel failed to provide immigration courts with key case paperwork.

When initiating deportation proceedings, DHS officials must provide a document known as a Notice to Appear (NTA) to a noncitizen they believe is subject to removal. An NTA describes the allegations for which DHS officials believe a noncitizen should be deported. DHS officials must provide an immigration judge with a copy of this NTA before the initial case hearing for a removal case to proceed. Failure to file this form can upend the case.

According to TRAC data, about 0.1 percent of immigration cases were dismissed over these NTA paperwork fumbles in Fiscal Year 2014. That number rose to 0.2 percent by Fiscal Year 2018. By Fiscal Year 2020, about 3.3 percent of immigration cases were dismissed over NTA fumbles.

In Fiscal Year 2021, NTA fumbles led to around 10.6 percent of immigration cases being dismissed, a rate impacting 33,802 of the 317,582 immigration cases that year. In Fiscal Year 2022, the dismissal rate based on NTA errors remained about 10 percent, upending 79,592 of the 794,946 immigration cases that year. This error rate fell to about 4.8 percent in Fiscal Year 2023, with 68,869 out of the 1.4 million immigration cases last year being dismissed over these NTA fumbles.

This rise in the share of immigration cases being dismissed over a relatively simple clerical error has caught the attention of Congressional Republicans. On Wednesday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Immigration Enforcement Subcommittee Chairman Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) sent a letter to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, asking him to address these reported clerical errors.

The Republican lawmakers sent a similar letter to Mary Cheng, the acting director for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR). The EOIR is the DOJ component responsible for running the U.S. immigration court system and adjudicating immigration cases.

The House Republicans asked Mr. Mayorkas and Ms. Cheng to confirm the total number of cases EOIR dismissed over DHS errors since Jan. 20, 2021, the start of the Biden administration.

Are Clerical Errors Being Fixed?

While immigration cases may initially be thrown out if they lack a corresponding NTA, DHS officials still have a chance to correct these clerical errors.

If a case is thrown out, DHS officials generally cannot restart the case without first generating a new NTA. Regenerating this paperwork typically restarts the deportation proceedings under a new case file number.

According to TRAC’s data, while a rising number of immigration cases have been thrown out due to DHS clerical errors, only about one in four of these errors has been corrected in the Biden era.

The TRAC data indicates that DHS rarely reissued an NTA prior to Fiscal Year 2018. The data shows that NTA reissue rates have improved somewhat since then.

In Fiscal Year 2018, DHS had an NTA reissue rate of 3.8 percent. That number rose to 23.3 percent in Fiscal Year 2019 but fell back to 13.8 percent in Fiscal Year 2020 amid a COVID-era decline in the overall number of immigration cases.

The TRAC data indicates that DHS had an NTA reissue rate of 24.2 percent in Fiscal Year 2021, 25.3 percent in Fiscal Year 2022, and 26.9 percent in Fiscal Year 2023.

The House Republican probe asks DHS and EOIR to provide their own assessment of the number of cases in which DHS eventually corrected its NTA fumbles and proceeded to prosecute their underlying immigration cases.

The Republicans are seeking responsive DHS and EOIR records by April 17.

These investigative efforts come as Republicans have widely criticized the Biden administration’s handle of immigration and border security issues.

The Republican-controlled House impeached Mr. Mayorkas in February, accusing him of a “willful and systemic refusal to comply with” U.S. immigration law and breach of public trust. The impeachment case is set to go before the Democrat-led U.S. Senate on April 10.

NTD News reached out to DHS and EOIR for comment but neither responded by press time on Wednesday.

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