FIRST ON FOX: The top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee is questioning the Biden administration over alleged failures in the processing of migrants into the country – after new data shows that tens of thousands of migrants had their cases thrown out due to filing issues.
“As you are aware, the United States is experiencing historic levels of illegal migrants crossing the Southwest border every day,” Rep. John Katko, R-NY, says in a letter obtained by Fox News Digital. “It has come to my attention that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) are unable to effectively process these migrants, assign them court dates, and commence removal proceedings.”
Migrants encountered at the southern border crossing illegally during the Biden administration have been served with either a Notice to Appear (NTA) in immigration court for their asylum hearing, a Notice to Report (NTR) at an ICE office (where they are served an NTA), or paroled into the country under ICE’s Alternatives to Detention program.
There were over 2.3 million migrant encounters at the border in Fiscal Year 2022, with estimates putting the number of migrants released into the U.S. at approximately one million.
“The unprecedented influx of illegal migrants at the Southwest border has put an overwhelming strain on the process to commence removal proceedings,” Katko says in a letter to the heads of ICE and CBP.
Katko points to recent data unearthed via the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University, which found that 63,586 cases were dismissed in FY 2022 as of the end of September purportedly because officials, mainly Border Patrol agents, are not filing the Notice to Appear (NTA) in time.
TRAC, which obtained the numbers via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, found that numbers spiked from less than 1,000 incidents of no NTAs being filed in February and March 2021 to more than 5,000 a month in late 2021 and 2022. In April 2022, more than 7,000 cases were thrown out.
The research center says the amount of cases being thrown out is not only wasteful of the court’s time, but also problematic for the immigrants involved. They may turn up for a court date only to have the case dismissed, and be left in limbo as to their status and what to do next.
A DHS spokesperson told Fox News Digital on Tuesday that those who are released from custody are under strict requirements to report in regularly.
“If a Notice to Appear (NTA) is unavailable, insufficient, or in need of correction at the time of the immigration court hearing, it is a regular practice to correct the deficiency and resubmit, or issue a new NTA so that cases may resume and migrants can continue with their obligation to appear before an immigration court at a later date,” they said.
Meanwhile, DHS says ICE is working with CBP and USCIS to ensure NTA forms are properly completed to reduce any such incidents. Additionally, when migrants are released, they are told to check in with ICE, including reporting changes of address and to receive further information about their cases.
Meanwhile, a Government Accountability Office report released in September outlined the “significant challenges” faced by officials in developing and implementing the NTR process, including with processing family units. It also highlighted resource constraints faced by ICE as well as a lack of personnel. It also acknowledges the additional planning and structures put in place by DHS agencies to deal with surges, including digitized processes and other moves to streamline processing.
“These reports raise alarming questions about the roles that CBP and ICE play in ensuring no one slips through the cracks of the United States immigration court system,” Katko wrote.
As the ranking Republican on the committee, Katko is seeking information on the number of migrants processed into the U.S. with an NTA, and how many ICE has had to reissue, as well as copies of policy memos and actions ICE has taken to find illegal immigrants who have failed to check in with ICE offices.
He also requests a breakdown of an ICE effort to mail out additional NTAs, and seeks information about the status of personnel issues the agencies have been facing and that were outlined in the report.
The letter comes days after CBP announced the number of migrant encounters at the border climbed to a record number of more than 227,000 during the month of September.
The administration has said its recent efforts to tackle migration surges, including surging resources and personnel to the border, anti-smuggling operations and recent cooperation with Mexico to tackle a spike in Venezuelan migrants, are showing results. That cooperation has seen Venezuelan nationals turned back to Mexico under the Title 42 public health order, as well as increased checkpoints and more resources.
“While failing regimes in Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua continued to drive a new wave of migration across the western Hemisphere, the number of Venezuelans arriving at the southern border decreased sharply nearly every day since we launched additional joint actions with Mexico to reduce irregular migration and create a more fair, orderly and safe process for people fleeing the humanitarian and economic crisis in their country,” CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus said in a press release late Friday.