Tens of thousands of illegal immigrant women and children streamed across the U.S. border last year seeking asylum and protected status, claiming a "credible fear" of going home to the violence in Central America. President Obama addressed the crisis through increased border enforcement, more detention beds, more immigration judges and pressure on political leaders in their home countries.
But a year later, new data obtained exclusively by Fox News shows the policy isn't stopping the influx. Not only are illegal immigrant women and children continuing to cross the border in large numbers, but the majority charged with crimes aren't even showing up for court.
"That strategy is obviously a complete failure because such a high percentage of these people who were not detained have simply melted into the larger illegal population and have no fear of immigration enforcement," said Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies.
Statistics released by the Department of Justice Executive Office of Immigration Review show 84 percent of those adults with children who were allowed to remain free pending trial absconded, and fewer than 4 percent deported themselves voluntarily.
The data set, requested by Fox News, underscores the dilemma facing immigration officials. While the ACLU and more than 100 lawmakers on Capitol Hill want to close federal detention centers, which they consider inhumane and unacceptable on legal and moral grounds, releasing the women and children to relatives and charities virtually guarantees they will fall off the federal government's radar.
"Now that we see that 85 percent of the people who were not detained before their immigration hearings do not show up for these hearings, that illustrates the need for detention," Vaughan said.