Denied a Day in Court: The Government’s Use of In Absentia Removal Orders Against Families Seeking Asylum

Last Updated

March 24, 2019

The U.S. government has issued in absentia removal orders to a large number of families primarily from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. These families fled persecution and sought safety in the United States often proving they had a credible fear of returning to their home country.

ASAP and CLINIC represented and successfully challenged the in absentia orders of 46 of 46 families before either an immigration judge or the Board of Immigration Appeals. Through this representation, ASAP and CLINIC learned that these families did not intend to abscond and instead were neither able to obtain legal representation nor navigate a complex immigration system. ASAP and CLINIC also learned that these families removed in absentia had valid asylum claims.

This report highlights the high rate of unrepresented families with valid asylum claims, features clients’ stories, discusses the obstacles families face in attending their immigration court hearings, explains how the immigration system fails families seeking asylum, and provides policy recommendations for how the Trump Administration and Congress can address these shortcomings.