The Trump administration is expanding its power to quickly deport certain undocumented immigrants. A fast-track process known as “expedited removal” allows immigration authorities to deport some people without a hearing in front of a judge.
The process previously applied to unauthorized immigrants apprehended within 100 miles of the border who had been in the country for two weeks or less. Starting Tuesday, it will expand to include unauthorized immigrants anywhere in the country, who can’t prove to authorities that they have lived in the U.S. continuously for at least two years.
"The effect of that change will be to enhance national security and public safety – while reducing government costs – by facilitating prompt immigration determinations," the Department of Homeland Security said in a notice.
Immigration lawyers and advocates across the country immediately voiced their objection to the expansion. Some expressed concern that undocumented immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for more than two years could still be rapidly deported, if they can’t immediately provide evidence of how long they’ve been here.
"What attorneys are telling their clients is make sure you have copies of paperwork proving you've been in the country for more than two years with you," said Julie Pash, an immigration attorney in Houston. "But nobody knows yet what ICE is going to consider to be significant evidence and how that’s going to work."
Dylan Corbett directs Hope Border Institute, an El Paso-based immigrant advocacy group. Fast-track deportations, he said, are "part of that larger strategy to seal the border by any means necessary, part of a larger strategy to deter migrants from coming to the border at all, and it represents the administration's efforts simply to respond to migration at the U.S.-Mexico border by criminalizing more and more migrants."
The Department of Homeland Security also said this expansion will free up detention space and help ease the backlog in immigration courts. According to the DHS, there were 909,034 pending immigration cases as of June. This new move "will reduce the significant costs to the government associated with full removal proceedings before an immigration judge," the department said.
The DHS notice states that unaccompanied children may not be placed in expedited removal, and that undocumented immigrants can apply for asylum once they’ve been arrested – potentially delaying the deportation process.
The nonpartisan group Migration Policy Institute estimates that nearly 300,000 of the approximately 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. could be subject to expedited removal.
Elizabeth Trovall contributed to this report.