Program to get immigrants in court for tracking

Over the course of the last two years, tens of thousands of immigrants from Central America have arrived on the border between the United States and Mexico; on Thursday, federal authorities launched a program to try to persuade more of them to attend their immigration court hearings.

A contractor has been hired by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to assist a number of immigrant families to find housing, low-cost lawyers and transportation. The hope is that offering such stability will increase the likelihood of the immigrants attending court hearings to determine whether they have the legal right to stay in the United States or should instead be deported. When immigrants do attend court for asylum hearings, authorities can track them to make sure those whose claims are denied can be sent back home.

Immigrant advocates also want the immigrants to attend court hearings, as they think many of those who are coming to the United States from countries such as Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala have a genuine chance of being granted asylum. The immigrants have to be in court for this to happen, with many judges automatically issuing deportation orders for immigrants who fail to show.

The program, which is open to as many as 800 families that pass an initial screening in cities such as Los Angeles, Washington, Miami, New York and Chicago, will cost $11m per annum; however, it will still only reach a fraction of the Central American immigrants who have crossed the border since October 2014.