In a move that rights advocates say will result in the unlawful deportation of thousands, the Trump administration on Monday announced it would expand the "expedited removal" system under which undocumented immigrants are deported without a court hearing.
"Expanding the fast-track procedure to apply anywhere in the U.S. is a recipe for ripping thousands more families apart and devastating communities."
—Grace Meng, Human Rights WatchUnder the new policy, set to take effect Tuesday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will have the authority to determine that an immigrant can be deported if he or she has been anywhere in the U.S. for less than two years.
The current expedited removal policy began in 2004 and permits the deportation of undocumented immigrants who have been in the country for less than two weeks, if they are apprehended 100 miles or less from a U.S. border. Hundreds of thousands of people have been deported under the policy since 2004—including nearly 200,000 when the program peaked in 2014—without being permitted to make their case in front of an immigration judge.
The expansion of the policy represents a "massive and dangerous change" for immigrant communities, one critic said.
This is a MASSIVE and DANGEROUS change.
Now, if ICE believes someone is undocumented and has lived in the US for less than two years—with the burden on the immigrant to prove otherwise—they can deport that person within days, with almost no court review allowed. https://t.co/cH9rHCiki8
— Aaron Reichlin-Melnick (@ReichlinMelnick) July 22, 2019
"It's hard to overstate the scope of this expedited removal expansion," tweeted Chris Geidner of the Justice Collaborative.
The American Immigration Council added that the move represents "an unprecedented expansion of the Department of Homeland Security's enforcement authority."
"Expanding expedited removal in this manner will create a 'show me your papers' regime of immigration enforcement," tweeted the group. "Individuals—including any U.S. citizens encountered—will be forced to prove they should not be deported."
Increasing expedited removal across the country is an unprecedented expansion of the Department of Homeland Security’s enforcement authority.
It will put many people at risk of wrongful deportation. https://t.co/t0qNIswqBh
— American Immigration Council (@immcouncil) July 22, 2019
Expanding expedited removal in this manner will create a 'show me your papers' regime of immigration enforcement.
Individuals—including any U.S. citizens encountered—will be forced to prove they should not be deported. https://t.co/J5JlYs2Qul
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— American Immigration Council (@immcouncil) July 22, 2019
Along with the ACLU, the Council swiftly announced that it would challenge the policy change in court.
"Under this unlawful plan, immigrants who have lived here for years would be deported with less due process than people get in traffic court," said Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project. "We will sue to end this policy quickly."
"Under this unlawful plan, immigrants who have lived here for years would be deported with less due process than people get in traffic court."
—Omar Jadwat, ACLU
The expansion of the expedited removal program follows two separate recent threats from President Donald Trump that ICE would begin immigration raids in major cities across the United States. Neither threat materialized, but human rights advocates said Monday that the new policy is the administration's latest way of intimidating immigrant communities.
"Expanding the fast-track procedure to apply anywhere in the U.S. is a recipe for ripping thousands more families apart and devastating communities," said Grace Meng, acting deputy director for the U.S. Program at Human Rights Watch (HRW). "This is a massive and dangerous change."
As HRW reported in 2014, the expedited removal process is already rife with abuse by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Under the current program, after agents apprehend someone who has been in the U.S. for less than two weeks, the undocumented immigrant can be detained for hours or even days before ICE agents conduct an interview to determine if he or she is eligible for asylum. These interviews are far shorter than standard "credible fear" interviews that are done when a person applies for asylum at a U.S. border, and are often done in crowded settings.
"Immigration officials' methods for interviewing migrants in expedited removal procedures are seriously flawed, leading to the rapid return to other countries of people who face harm, contrary to U.S. law and international standards," HRW said Monday.
Under the expanded policy, tweeted immigration lawyer Sarah Mehta, thousands more people will be subjected to a process which "amounts to letting CBP officers—not judges—decide within minutes if someone has a legal claim or can be banished for years or even for life."
"People with strong legal claims—and even U.S. citizens—were deported, sometimes to danger" under the expedited removal policy, Mehta added.
I'll just add that this "process" amounts to letting CBP officers--not judges--decide within minutes if someone has a legal claim or can be banished for years or even for life. We found that people w/strong legal claims--and even US citizens--were deported, sometimes to danger.
— Sarah Mehta (@sarahlmehta) July 22, 2019
"We already see serious abuses of fast-track deportation authority where it is currently used at the U.S. border," Meng said. "This change makes people living in U.S. communities subject to an opaque deportation process with limited judicial review."