It’s a regular occurrence to see a long line of migrants overnight, going around the block of a federal courthouse in Lower Manhattan.

They line up for meetings with immigration officials and for scheduled court appearances.

Attorneys for some migrants said their clients have not gotten into the building despite having court appearances scheduled. Their lawyers said that’s leading to deportation notifications.

What You Need To Know

  • For months, immigration lawyers have told NY1 they have clients that are getting ordered deported because they missed court

  • The reason they say their clients missed court: long lines outside a federal courthouse prevented them from getting inside

  • The U.S. Department of Justice denies there being any delays getting into the facility

For people simply trying to check-in with immigration officials, that can be done online. However, for anyone set to go before an immigration judge must do so in person. So the stakes are much higher.   

“When you don’t attend your immigration court hearing it is most likely that you are going to be removed in absentia or ordered deported,” said Lauren Wyatt, an immigration lawyer with Catholic Charities.

Ordered deported means immigration agents can remove migrants from the U.S. at any point, even if they are seeking asylum. 

“When we see people who find out they have been ordered deported through no fault of their own, it’s frustrating I think more than anything else.,” she said. 

Over the past several weeks, four separate immigration lawyers confirmed to NY1 they represent migrants who say they missed their court appointments because they were stuck outside 26 Federal Plaza and not allowed inside.

“We see this every week,” said Wyatt. “We’ve seen this really over the last year but it’s been marked over the last three or four months,” said Jodi Ziesemer, director of the immigrant protection unit at the New York Legal Assistance Group.

A few months ago, Rosalina is from Honduras, said she waited for her court appointment with her son but couldn’t get into the building.

She said she then got a letter that an immigration judge ordered her deported, too.  

“I felt distressed because my children are here with me, so I don’t know, I felt sad,” she said, through an interpreter. “It’s chaos, getting a deportation letter. One feels sad because it’s not easy to leave and leave your children here.” 

Rosalina, and anyone else in that situation, can file a motion to get their case reopened. She did that, and it worked.  

Immigration lawyers who have spoken with NY1 said for the most part, the judges have been understanding. However, they said they still have concerns that this has been happening in the first place. 

“We’ve seen take many months just to get back to square one,” said Ziesemer. 

Migrants have a year to apply for asylum after they enter the U.S. deportation orders to prevent them from applying until their case is resolved. And by that point, it could be too late.  

But migrants tell NY1 as recently as this month, they’re still being turned away.

How many, though, attorneys said it’s not possible to know because there aren’t enough immigration lawyers to guide the more than 60,000 recently arriving migrants in New York City through the complex court system.   

Wyatt said she worries how many migrants are completely unaware that they missed their day in court, now face deportation and can’t apply for asylum. 

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review sent NY1 the following statement: “There are no delays for individuals entering the building through the line for the immigration court. Individuals should look for the posted signs for the immigration court.”