U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is expanding a policy to deport immigrants quickly by not allowing them to see an immigration judge.
Previously, the expedited removal policy has been implemented only for immigrants detained within 100 miles of the U.S. borders with Canada or Mexico. Under an expanded policy, immigration agents nationwide have the power to decide if a person is undocumented and has been living in the country less than two years, thus making them eligible for deportation. The move allows for immigrants to be deported without having to appear in immigration court.
“Our ability to implement this important statutory tool will further enable us to protect our communities and preserve the integrity of our nation’s congressionally mandated immigration laws,” Tony Pham, the interim ICE director, said on Wednesday announcing the policy change.
Officials said expanding the scope of this policy will “keep dangerous criminals from entering communities to potentially reoffend.”
But advocates say expanding this policy will not only result in federal agents targeting undocumented immigrants but also visa holders or anyone who can’t immediately prove their citizenship or immigration status. And since anyone arrested by agents will be removed without seeing a judge, advocates worry some immigrants could be deported by accident.
“People may have to start carrying those documents to, in fact, show that they have been here for two years or documentation that they are citizens,” said Fred Tsao, policy director for the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. “What this policy does is essentially open the door for massive racial profiling, particularly for Latinx and other people of color.”
Rey Wences, a community organizer with Organized Communities Against Deportation, has concerns about how this policy will be enforced.
“We have seen the way in which immigration enforcement has played out and a lot of these policies end up targeting Black and brown immigrants,” said Wences.
Advocates said they are further worried about the implementation of the new policy following news that the Trump Administration can’t find the parents of 545 children who were separated from their parents at the border under his “no tolerance” immigration policy.
“There’s been little to no accountability,” Wences said.
The expedited removal policy was announced by the Trump administration in 2019 but a federal judge blocked it. In June, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia lifted the preliminary injunction allowing the agency to move forward with the expansion of this policy.
There are several categories of deportations that can be done bypassing the nation’s overwhelmed immigration court system. The category for expedited removals was created in 1996 as part of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act.
The administration of former President Barack Obama utilized several categories of deportations that bypassed the immigration court system to deport a record number of immigrants. For example, between 2008 and 2011, more than 25,000 immigrants from the Chicago “area of responsibility” — which covers Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri and Wisconsin — were deported without having their cases heard in immigration court. These deportations accounted for 57 percent of all deportations during that span, according to a Chicago Reporter investigation.
María Inés Zamudio is a reporter for WBEZ’s Race, Class and Communities desk. Follow her @mizamudio.