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Documented: Deportation Orders Reach 25 Year Height as Migrants Miss Notices in Shelter Shuffle

Immigrants are in a vulnerable position because they’re unhoused and living in shelters for limited number of time/days. Many immigrants are losing track of important hearing dates they must attend because the notifications are being sent by mail, but they do not have an address, which then leaves them vulnerable to deportation. NYLAG’s Jodi Ziesemer talked with Documented about this ongoing issue. 

“There has been an increase in removal orders since migrants began arriving in high numbers to New York City’s shelter system last year, according to lawyers and data from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University (TRAC).  

“The absence of stable housing has compelled many migrants, like Padilla Yasig, to initially list the addresses of other friends, or family members — even distant ones — with immigration authorities. When migrants do get a chance to change their addresses to the shelters they’re in, city rules may force them to move out in a matter of a month or two. 

“’It’s really arbitrary which deportation orders get executed and when,’ said Jodi Ziesemer, the director of the Immigrant Protection Unit at the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG). ‘So people are really vulnerable.’ 

“’With so many people residing in shelters, and not having fixed addresses when they’re issued the charging documents and the border, there’s just been a huge gap in people being notified of their hearings,’ Ziesemer said. ‘The burden falls entirely on the immigrant who, again, is not familiar with our system.’ 

“At NYLAG, most clients currently fighting in-absentia deportation cases are recently arrived migrants, many of whom are staying in shelters. Once an immigrant has an in-absentia deportation order, they must prove it was not their direct fault if they did not receive the notice. They must do this within a statutory deadline in order to reopen their immigration court case. 

“In an October report from NYLAG and Make the Road New York, which was shared with Documented, the organizations said that between September 2022 and September 2023, they fought deportation orders filed against 64 clients who missed their hearings, primarily at New York City immigration courts. 

“According to NYLAG and Make the Road, ‘government errors’ and ‘overenforcement’ led immigrants to miss their hearings, resulting in deportation orders, the report said. Incidents like guards barring immigrants from entering the building to attend their hearings, EOIR and DHS issuing ‘flawed’ court notices, and ICE officers giving out ‘incorrect and confusing information about hearing dates,’ led to deportation orders being issued.  

“Sometimes, clients were never notified of their court cases at all. ‘In some instances, the United States Postal Service returned the mailed hearing notices to the court as undeliverable, yet the court ordered the respondent removed regardless,’ the report said. 

“While EOIR granted 88% of the legal organizations’ requests to reopen their clients’ immigration cases as of October 16, these numbers only reflect the portion of immigrants who could access legal assistance to reopen their immigration cases through these organizations. ‘For people who are trying to do this on their own, without an attorney, it can be almost impossible,’ Ziesemer said.”   

Read the full piece by Giulia McDonnell Nieto Del Rio in Documented from November 3, 2023.

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