In a pivotal Supreme Court case, the Biden administration has sounded an alarm over the potential for a massive surge in deportation cases being overturned and reintroduced into the already burdened immigration system. This warning emerged during the oral arguments focused on the legality of Notices to Appear (NTA) in immigration proceedings.
The NTAs, which are issued to undocumented immigrants prior to their release into the U.S. to appear in immigration court, occasionally lack a specified court date, marked instead as “TBD.” A court date is later sent by mail to the immigrant. The case under scrutiny originated with an El Salvadoran individual who received an NTA in 2005 and later a mailed court date, which they claim to have never received. This situation is not isolated, as it resonates with the experiences of two other undocumented immigrants entangled in similar circumstances.
Government attorneys, representing the Biden administration, argued that these NTAs, even with TBD dates, constitute proper notice as per legal requirements. However, they expressed grave concerns that a ruling against this practice by the Supreme Court would lead to hundreds of thousands of cases with TBD on their NTAs being revisited and thrust back into the immigration system. Charles McCloud, speaking for the government, highlighted the steep increase in in absentia orders for deportation, rising from 380 in 2021 to over 11,000 in 2023, pointing out the potential for an “avalanche” of cases re-entering the system.
The legal counsel for the undocumented immigrants contested this view, arguing that the two-step notice process does not meet the statutory requirements. Easha Anand, representing the immigrants, emphasized that the repercussions of a ruling in their favor would be manageable, leading primarily to additional hearings, but not necessarily altering the eventual outcomes.
This case adds to a string of immigration-related disputes faced by the Supreme Court in recent years. It comes at a time when the U.S. is grappling with an unprecedented immigration backlog, with over 3 million cases pending in immigration courts and more than 6 million undocumented immigrants on the non-detained docket.
The outcome of this case is poised to significantly impact the landscape of immigration enforcement and the administration’s ongoing efforts to manage the influx of migrants, amidst a system described by DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas as “broken.”