Last weekend, at least 121 migrants who lost their asylum cases were arrested and marked for deportation—effectively sending some to their deaths.
According to the New York Times, about 80 percent of recent cases have ended in deportation—even though immigration officers determined through initial interviews that most had credible fears of being sent home.
“Mothers at the centers,” the Times reports, “said they fled because gangs had murdered their husbands or siblings, tried to recruit their sons or threatened sexual violence against their daughters.”
Part of the discrepancy between the initial interviews and the final judgement can be tied to the reluctance of many migrants to show up in court. According to the Times, about 67 percent of almost 1,000 recently decided immigration cases were tried in absentia. Women who obtained legal representation and showed up to court were much more likely to win asylum.
“Many of these mothers and children had no lawyers because they could not afford them,” Cecillia Wang, the director of the immigrants’ rights project for the American Civil Liberties Union, tells the Times. “Without counsel, traumatized refugees don’t understand what is happening in court and cannot get their legitimate asylum claims heard.”
And despite the judicial proceedings, deportation can often end up being an effective death sentence: At least 83 undocumented immigrants who were already deported back to Central America were killed upon their return.