As part of its increased militancy and cruelty on the immigration front, apparently connected to a strategic decision to make this a centerpiece of the president’s reelection campaign, the Department of Homeland Security has announced a new policy that will significantly expand the number of undocumented people subject to expedited deportations without a hearing before an immigration judge. NBC News has the story:
Since 2004, the policy allowed for immigration authorities to use the expedited removal process for unauthorized immigrants caught within 100 miles of a U.S. land border and arrested within 14 days of arrival.
The new notice would expand that to all unauthorized immigrants anywhere in the U.S. and says they would have to show “to the satisfaction of an immigration officer, that they have been physically present in the United States continuously” for two years or more.
The new policy will apply to those alleged to have “entered the country illegally” by land, which excludes visa overstays or people who entered by air or sea. According to one estimate, it would instantly expose 300,000 people to quick deportation for the first time. And because the burden of proof for establishing the time of residence is on the immigrant, it could well be applied to many more who have been in the country for much longer than two years.
Unsurprisingly, advocates for immigrants and their communities are gearing up for a legal battle to stop the new policy’s implementation:
“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, director of the Immigrants’ Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement. “We will sue to end this policy quickly.”
Royce Bernstein Murray, of the American Immigration Council, also vowed to challenge the policy in court, arguing that the broadened authority allows DHS “to essentially be both prosecutor and judge.”
The official rationale for the move is to relieve the backlog of cases being dealt with by the immigration judges who, under the old policy, would hear them; there are currently 945,000 cases pending. The administration had earlier tried to push judges to clear cases more rapidly, but at the same time kept them from dismissing cases that were lower enforcement priorities. So from one perspective, the new policy is just an intensification of the overall Trumpian effort to step up deportations rather than to dispense any sort of justice. And whether or not deportations are rapidly increased, announcing the new policy will likely increase the pressure for “self-deportation” by newly endangered immigrants who don’t want to wait around for an ICE raid. The general police-state atmosphere, of course, will be significantly enhanced by the expansion of authorized expedited deportations far beyond the border. We can probably expect some conspicuous raids and kangaroo courts in the distant American heartland very soon to set an example and ramp up the fear.
It’s unclear yet whether this and associated policy changes are aimed more at the undocumented population or at potential Trump voters who like the idea of “sending them back.” But either way, these moves are going to create more problems than they solve.