Some undocumented immigrants living in the United States have received fake documents, ordering them to arrive at the courthouse at midnight, on weekends, or on dates that don’t exist, such as September 31, according to a report by The Dallas Morning News.
According to the outlet, roughly two dozen immigrants arrived at a Texas courthouse last week for their hearings only to be turned away by court staffers who told them their names were not on the docket and that they had been given “fake dates.”
The immigrants had been taken into custody during a raid conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) last month. Some 159 undocumented immigrants, many of them without a criminal record, were detained at the Load Trail trailer factory in Sumner, Texas “about 100 miles northeast of Dallas.”
According to the Morning News, the raid was described by ICE officials as “one of the largest such operations at a single workplace in a decade.”
The immigrants were later given their “fake” court dates by ICE officials, who apparently never coordinated with immigration courts to clear the dates, resulting in what advocates have described as “chaos.”
“The immigration court system is confusing enough on a normal day,” Ashley Huebner, associate director of legal services at the National Immigrant Justice Center, told the Morning News. “But to have an individual who probably does not speak English…and receives a document in which DHS has purposely listed a fake date and time is a real different level of confusion and absurdity.”
“Fake dates,” sometimes called “dummy dates,” are not a phenomenon unique to Texas. According to the Morning News, reports of fake court dates have sprung up in Los Angeles, San Diego, Chicago, Atlanta, and Miami.
Neither the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which oversees ICE, nor the Justice Department have offered a clear explanation for why undocumented immigrants are being handed fake court dates.
ICE spokesman Tim Oberle shifted the blame to a court agency known as the Executive Office for Immigration Review saying it “is responsible for setting and resetting appearance dates upon receipt of a notice to appear filed by” ICE.
The court debacle comes as the national immigration backlog continues to grow at an astonishing rate. Reports suggest that, even without any new arrests, it could take up to four years to eliminate the backlog in its entirety.
Additionally, ICE has requested $1 billion dollars from the federal government to keep with the Trump administration’s demands of detaining an average of 43,000 undocumented immigrants a day. Health and Human Services officials have also requested hundreds of additional beds at a juvenile detention camp in Tornillo, Texas, to partly accommodate the surge in detained minors over the past year.
As ThinkProgress previously reported, the current number of children detained in immigration facilities stands at nearly 13,000.