The San Antonio Express-News reports that on November 29, at least 100 people were at the San Antonio, Texas immigration courthouse for what they all thought would be immigration hearings. The date had been assigned as a placeholder to as many as 10,000 cases in San Antonio — and 100,000 cases nationally. There also appears to be another placeholder date in February 2021 and it was unclear whether the hearings now set for that date will be rescheduled.
The Miami Herald describes the issue, quoting:
"They're 'dummy dates.' That's the term that gets thrown around," Sweeney said. "It's a serious problem nationwide."
"It's creating chaos, inside the courthouse and out. People are showing up to court and discovering that their date was fake, and clerks are being overwhelmed by the masses who aren't even supposed to be there," said Kelli Stump, an immigration attorney whose practice is based in Oklahoma City. "It's basically a ploy to disqualify people from certain immigration relief in court, and perhaps even to spark waves of fear and anxiety."
A Reuters report found that:
A TRAC report found:
Multiple news outlets (Washington Post, CNN, CBS News) reported that more than 1,000 immigrants showed up to immigration courts nationwide with Notices to Appear (NTA) containing the hearing date of January 31, 2019, only to discover from the immigration courts that in fact these hearing dates did not exist.
Emails obtained via FOIA by AILA member Matthew Hoppock reveals EOIR’s response to the "dummy date"/"placeholder date" of January 31.
EOIR announced that during the lapse in appropriations, detained docket cases would proceed as scheduled; non-detained docket cases would be reset for a later date. The government shutdown lasted from December 22, 2018, until January 25, 2019.
Blog post from Aaron Hall (FOIA Results: EOIR’s “Acceptance Guidelines for Notices to Appear”) reveals EOIR’s Acceptance Guidelines for Notices to Appear (guidance accompanying EOIR’s PM 19-08).
David Shahoulian, Democratic Chief Counsel to the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement, requested a briefing on this matter from EOIR: "We just received the following internal DOJ email, which was released through FOIA. This appears to indicate that the use of 'dummy dates' was both intentional and authorized. We’d really like a briefing on this. Thanks."
Emails obtained via FOIA by AILA member Matthew Hoppock
USCIS provided a CNN reporter with the following statement (EOIR and ICE had declined to comment):
A FOIA response received by AILA member Matthew Hoppock shows Assistant Chief Immigration Judge Irene Feldman authorizing a court administrator to set up "dummy dates."
"It is starting to appear the Department of Justice has chosen not to comply with the Supreme Court’s decision in Pereira v. Sessions because doing so would conflict with the agency’s self-imposed deportation quotas it is placing on Immigration Judges, which go into effect October 1, 2018"
The Dallas Morning News (Ice is ordering immigrants to appear in court, but the judges aren't expecting them) reports that immigrants are being ordered to appear in court by ICE, “but their official notices to appear are being greeted by court staffers who matter-of-factly called them 'fake dates.'"
"An ICE spokesman on Friday referred questions to the Justice Department’s agency overseeing the courts," the Dallas Morning News reported. "A spokeswoman for that agency referred questions to the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees ICE."
"Nothing in our decision today inhibits the Government’s ability to exercise that statutory authority after it has served a notice to appear specifying the time and place of the removal proceedings."
"The dissent raises a similar practical concern, which is similarly misplaced. The dissent worries that requiring the Government to specify the time and place of removal proceedings, while allowing the Government to change that information, might encourage DHS to provide 'arbitrary dates and times that are likely to confuse and confound all who receive them.' Post, at 8. The dissent’s argument wrongly assumes that the Government is utterly incapable of specifying an accurate date and time on a notice to appear and will instead engage in 'arbitrary' behavior. See ibid. The Court does not embrace those unsupported assumptions. As the Government concedes, 'a scheduling system previously enabled DHS and the immigration court to coordinate in setting hearing dates in some cases.' Brief for Respondent 50, n. 15; Brief for National Immigrant Justice Center as Amicus Curiae 30– 31. Given today’s advanced software capabilities, it is hard to imagine why DHS and immigration courts could not again work together to schedule hearings before sending notices to appear."