Immigration officials will be able to more quickly arrest and deport undocumented immigrants anywhere in the United States without going before a judge under a new policy released by the Trump administration Monday.
The move aggressively expands a process known as “expedited removal” — quick deportations that generally aren’t subject to judicial review. The expanded process is set to take effect Tuesday.
Opponents of the new policy warned that even American citizens could be at risk of being swept up in fast-track deportation procedures that aren’t overseen by a judge and don’t provide people a right to an attorney. Immigrant advocates promised to rapidly challenge the new policy in court.
Under current policy, immigration officials can apply expedited removals to speed deportations of people apprehended within 100 miles of the border and for those who’ve been in the country up to two weeks. Those who arrived in the U.S. by sea, rather than at U.S. land borders, can be subject to expedited removal for up to two years.
Under the new policy, officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection will be empowered to use the fast-track procedures anywhere in the U.S. and for anyone who cannot show “to the satisfaction of an immigration officer, that they have been physically present in the United States continuously for the two-year period immediately preceding” arrest, regardless of how they arrived, according to the notice published Monday.
The new deportation policy is the second major effort by the administration this month to aggressively expand its power to try to keep migrants out of the U.S. or remove them if they enter. Last week, the administration moved to curb asylum in the U.S. That rule effectively eliminated almost all asylum claims at the U.S. southern land border by rendering ineligible any asylum seeker who’d transited at least one other country prior to arriving.
The move to expand expedited removals comes as backlogs in immigration courts continue to grow. Nearly 950,000 cases are currently pending in U.S. immigration courts, with an average wait time of 713 days, or just under two years, according to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.
President Trump and his hardline anti-immigration aides have been frustrated that despite concerted efforts to step up enforcement and crackdown immigration, they’ve largely been unable to reverse a surge in migration to the U.S. southern border and the ballooning backlog in immigration cases.
Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s national Immigrants’ Rights Project, said the expanded expedited removals increase the concern advocates already had that the quick deportations have been violating immigrants’ rights to due process. The ACLU said Monday that it will “speedily challenge” the new policy.
“The expedited removal system is already unconstitutional in our view,” Gelernt said. “This expansion will only increase the illegality.”
More than 20,000 people could immediately be subject to the expanded expedited removal process. Nearly 40% of those encountered by immigration authorities in the U.S. interior so far in 2019 have been here less than two years, according to the Trump administration.
Last year, the average time in Homeland Security custody for someone placed in expedited removal was 11.4 days, according to government data, compared with 51.5 days for someone placed in full removal proceedings.
Advocates decried the new policy Monday, raising questions about safeguards against improper deportations when expedited removals can occur within days and don’t permit the person being deported to access attorneys or interpreters. Under the new rule, they said, even U.S. citizens could be forced to carry their passports in order to avoid being at risk of removal from the country.
Some 8.2 million U.S. citizens also have at least one member of their family in the U.S. without legal status, said David Leopold, former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Assn.
“Should they be carrying their passports with them? Should they be carrying immigration papers with them at all times?” Leopold said. “How do we answer the question, ‘Papers please’?”