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Border Patrol Releases Immigrants Without Court Dates or Paperwork


U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) continues to be overwhelmed as it struggles with a growing influx of immigrant families and unaccompanied children at the border. Officials are still expelling some families to Mexico as capacity allows, but other families with children under the age of seven, in particular, are being released into the U.S. Border officials are releasing some families without any notices to appear in immigration court or any other paperwork. If they have notices to appear, they are often incomplete, with the date and time set as “undetermined.” These releases are occurring in large part due to heavily overcrowded facilities, a desire to refrain from separating families, and the need to shelter a surge of unaccompanied minors.

CBP Releases Migrants with Booking Records Only

Border officials see this as a time-saving measure, as it can take hours for officials to complete even one document. However, these actions shift the burden to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to keep track of these families, who have nothing more than booking records. In a sense, the move passes the buck to a different sector of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

There are no precise statistics on how many people have been released into the U.S. without a set date and time to appear in a particular immigration court. According to border officials, some of the criteria that might justify releasing individuals without court dates would include:

  • Border Patrol facilities in a specific area are 75% capacity or more, and the number of incoming immigrants exceeds the number of outgoing immigrants
  • The number of unaccompanied minors in custody exceeds 50% of capacity or more, and the agency is unable to place the children with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) within 48 hours

Additionally, some information suggests the DHS gave border officials the discretion to release individuals or families without court dates as needed. In most cases, the immigrants are released at bus stations or non-governmental shelters, or similar facilities.

Some families fear that they will miss a court date or other meeting, which could trigger enforcement actions against them, including deportation. Still other families are confused, have misinformation about their current status, and cannot read the English-language documents. For instance, this sort of release does not allow families or individuals to apply for asylum or legally work in the U.S. The booking records also give individuals no legal immigration status. However, the booking records should not prevent a family from traveling throughout the U.S. or enrolling their children in school.

Screening for Individuals at the Border Continues

Adult family members have booking records upon their release, but these records contain no firm court or meeting dates. Booking records contain only basic information, such as name, gender, date of birth, and nationality. CBP does photograph and fingerprint adult migrants, but it does not document children in that manner. Recently, however, CBP has added instructions to booking records directing individuals to report to an ICE office within 60 days. The assumption is that these individuals will receive court dates when they report to the appropriate ICE office. However, they ultimately are responsible for scheduling their own asylum hearings, as immigration officials would not necessarily have a means of contacting the individuals once they leave the border checkpoint.

Despite the lack of court notices to appear, all immigrants released into the U.S. are first subject to CBP initial screening, which allows the federal government to collect biometrics and biographical data. They also are subject to criminal and national security records checks before release.

Contact Us Today for Legal Assistance with Your Immigration Case

The Bashyam Global Immigration Law Group limits its practice solely to immigration matters. This focus allows us to concentrate our efforts on keeping abreast of the ever-changing immigration law and policy world. We are here to represent your interests, no matter whether you need help with getting an employment-based visa, bringing a loved one to the U.S., or defending against deportation. Call us today at (919) 833-0840 and see what we can do for you.