Rights groups in the United States have vowed to challenge a Trump administration plan to expand the authority of immigration officers to deport migrants without requiring them to appear before judges in advance of deportation.
The rule set to be published in the Federal Register on Tuesday would apply “expedited removal” to any undocumented crossers who cannot prove to immigration agents that they have been living in the country for two years.
Legal experts said it was a dramatic expansion of a programme that cuts out the review by an immigration judge. Previously, only those immigrants caught within 160km (100 miles) of the border who had been in the country two weeks or less could be quickly ordered deported.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has filed suit to block numerous Trump administration immigration policies in court, vowed to sue.
“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 Immigrants’ Rights Project.
The policy will create chaos and fear in immigrant communities, and could have unintended consequences, said Stephen Yale-Loehr, a professor at Cornell Law School.
“US citizens could be expeditiously removed by error,” he said. “You don’t have a lot of room to challenge that. You can’t go before an immigration judge.”
The American Immigration Council also said on Twitter, “we will see the Trump administration in court.”
“One of the major problems with expedited removal is that the immigration officer making the decision virtually has unchecked authority,” the Council tweeted.
The expansion of expedited removal will have a profound effect on all communities—noncitizens and U.S. citizens alike.
Under Trump, 5x more U.S. citizens are being approached by ICE than under Obama.
This expansion could grow that number exponentially. https://t.co/RllF0SsGSq
— American Immigration Council (@immcouncil) July 22, 2019
President Donald Trump has struggled to stem an increase of mostly Central American families arriving at the US-Mexico border, leading to overcrowded detention facilities and dire conditions for those at the border.
The government said increasing rapid deportations would free up detention space and ease strains on immigration courts, which face a backlog of more than 900,000 cases.
The policy comes after a US Court of Appeals in California in March ruled that those ordered deported in the sped-up process have a right to take their case to a judge.
DHS said 37 percent, or 20,570, of those encountered by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the year to September had been in the country less than two years.
If individuals in expedited removal cannot establish a “credible fear” of prosecution in their home country, they can be quickly deported. In fiscal 2018, those in these sped-up proceedings were detained for an average of 11.4 days, according to DHS, compared with 51.5 days for those in full proceedings.