The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee advances human rights through grassroots collaborations.
Fast-Track Deportations Are a Threat to Human Rights
By Suhra Nahib on December 3, 2020
Shortly before the 2020 election, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) implemented a new policy to allow ICE officers to arrest and deport some categories of undocumented immigrants with minimal due process—stoking fear, restricting chances for asylum, and paving the way for racial profiling and other human rights abuses.
The Trump administration’s effort to expand “expedited removal” of undocumented immigrants across the U.S. was wisely blocked by a federal court judge when the policy was first announced in 2019. Nevertheless, in June, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit lifted the preliminary injunction, making it possible for ICE officers to expand the use of expedited removal across the country. This policy allows the agency to arrest and deport undocumented immigrants without a hearing before the immigration judge.
Previously, expedited removal was applied only to asylum-seekers and migrants met within 100 miles of the border and those who have been in the United States for up to two weeks. This new policy will affect all immigrants in the country who cannot prove upon encountering an ICE officer that they have been living continuously in the country for two years.
These fast-track removals allow for only narrow humanitarian exceptions. In the case of asylum-seekers, they need to tell Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) that their lives are at risk if they are deported under the current expedited removal policy. After doing so, their cases can be transferred to ICE, where they must pass a “credible fear” interview with asylum officers.
Only after clearing these initial hurdles are asylum-seekers able to access the immigration courts. ICE officers typically detain immigrants under this policy while they await deportation proceedings. These include a hearing in front of a judge — which could also take months or longer. The new policy allows officers to have more power than before to determine who should quickly be deported, which will likely prevent many asylum-seekers from reaching the immigration court stage. This policy will significantly affect and damage immigrants’ due process rights by essentially denying them a fair court hearing process, including an opportunity to seek effective legal counsel.
To force immigrants and others stopped by authorities to show proof they have lived in the country for two years would also increase the likelihood of more individuals, other immigrants, permanent residents, and people of color who are U.S citizens being racially profiled. It should be noted that undocumented immigrants who live in the United States have the right to protection under the U.S. Constitution.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), in the Yamataya v. Fisher case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) could not deport someone without a trial, which meets the constitutional standard.
What can the incoming Biden administration do?
President-elect Joe Biden has pledged that he will change the American immigration system that President Trump has made. However, Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, said to National Public Radio, “I do not think it is realistic that Biden in four years could unroll everything that Trump did. Because of the intense volume and pace of changes the Trump administration enacted while in office, even if we have a new administration, Trump will continue to have had an impact on immigration for years to come.”
While Biden may not be able to fully and easily undo the damage of the last four years, one place to start would be to scale back the use of the abusive “expedited removal” policy. For too long, expedited removal has instilled fear in the immigrant community, even among those who have lived in the United States for longer than two years. This type of legal procedure violates the Constitutional and human rights of an immigrant. It should be replaced with procedures that guarantee every person a fair hearing in court.
UUSC will continue to work with our members to advocate for those exercising their right to migrate and ensuring that they are treated with dignity and respect when entering the country, regardless of whether they enter at a designated point of entry or not.
About UUSC: Guided by the belief that all people have inherent worth and dignity, UUSC advances human rights globally by partnering with affected communities who are confronting injustice, mobilizing to challenge oppressive systems, and inspiring and sustaining spiritually grounded activism for justice. We invite you to join us in this journey toward realizing a better future!
Photo Credit: iStock – mikdam