- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Justice Department yesterday filed a motion in federal court to end a long-standing injunction it says hampers the ability to deport aliens from El Salvador detained along the Southwest U.S. border.

Known as the Orantes injunction, it was approved in 1988 based on well-established civil rights abuses in El Salvador and a finding by a federal court that the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service coerced Salvadorans to accept voluntary departure and not to apply for asylum.

The injunction allows Salvadorans arrested by U.S. immigration officers greater protections than aliens of other nationalities.

Border Patrol spokesman Mario Villarreal said the “special treatment” for Salvadorans was no longer warranted, noting that the Central American country now has a constitution that protects freedom of speech, the press and religion. The motion, if granted, would allow the expedited removal of Salvadorans, who currently account for the largest number of non-Mexican illegal aliens arrested by the U.S. Border Patrol.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced last month the creation of the Secure Border Initiative, a multiyear effort to prevent illegal immigration and security breaches. A key element of the plan is expedited removal, which allows the deportation of illegal aliens with no or with false documents without a hearing before an immigration judge.

In the past six weeks, Mr. Villarreal said the Border Patrol has apprehended more than 6,600 illegal aliens from El Salvador, second only to Mexico. Those who do not have criminal records or outstanding warrants — the majority — are not being detained because of limited bed space.

By removing the injunction, he said the typical processing time for Salvadorans could decrease from the current average of more than 90 days to 35 days. Mr. Villarreal said that, with shorter turnaround time, more detention space would become available.

Mr. Villarreal said the expedited removal process is a major aspect of Homeland Security’s effort to control the border and that many aspects of the Orantes injunction have become part of standard operating procedures that apply to all apprehended aliens, not just Salvadorans.

“Regardless of nationality, apprehended aliens are generally provided a list of free legal service providers,” the Homeland Security Department said. “In addition, detention facility standards require access to telephones, a law library, generous legal visitation hours and the opportunity for legal service providers to give group legal presentations to detainees.

“Aliens in expedited removal who fear return to their country have the opportunity to pursue an asylum claim,” the department said.

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