Immigrant-rights groups sued Tuesday to try to stop the Department of Homeland Security’s new speedy deportation policy, saying the Trump administration is cutting too many corners and stripping migrants of due process rights to fight their removal.
The policy, known as expedited removal, has been on the books for decades and allows immigration officers to mark someone for quick deportation without having to go through the lengthy immigration court process. It had been limited to newly arrived immigrants who were caught crossing illegally into the U.S. within 100 miles of the border, but the Trump administration last month expanded it nationwide and raised the limit to those who had been in the country as long as two years.
Immigrant-rights activists have long been critical of expedited removal at the border, and they were outraged by the move to expand it.
They said there have been “numerous” examples of U.S. citizens and legal residents wrongly deported through expedited removal.
“The administration’s unprecedented decision to expand expedited removal to a vast group of noncitizens apprehended anywhere in the United States, and to noncitizens who have been living in the country for long periods, disregards 20 years of experience showing that the expedited removal process, even at the border, is rife with errors and results in widespread violations of individuals’ legal rights,” the groups said in their lawsuit.
They said “hundreds of thousands” of immigrants who were living illegally in the U.S. could be targeted for speedy deportation and said “countless more noncitizens” who do have a right to be in the U.S. will be wrongly snared.
The lawsuit accuses acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin K. McAleenan of cutting procedural corners in announcing the policy last month. He issued a notice in the Federal Register, effective immediately, but did not put the change in policy up for notice and comment.
That runs afoul of the Administrative Procedure Act, according to the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Immigration Council, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of several immigration groups.
The Administrative Procedure Act has snared a number of other Trump immigration policies, including his 2017 attempt to phase out the Obama-era DACA program, his attempt to limit asylum claims at the border and his push to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.
Tuesday’s lawsuit also says the expanded expedited removal violates the Immigration and Nationality Act and the Constitution’s due process protections.
Courts in the past have upheld expedited removal in its limited use.
“Only aliens who have developed sufficient connections to this country may invoke our Constitution’s protections,” the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in a ruling last year.
Activists filed the new lawsuit in federal district court in Washington.
Expedited removal was part of a 1996 law passed by Congress and signed by President Trump, though it was the George W. Bush administration that set the old rules applying it to within 100 miles of the border and within the first two weeks of someone illegally crossing.
Mr. McAleenan, in announcing the policy two weeks ago, said the 100-mile limit ignored some obvious cases where expedited removal would be appropriate. He pointed out that major cities in border states are often more than 100 miles from the border itself — such as Roswell, New Mexico, where 67 immigrants who were in the country illegally were found at a stash house this year.
Under expedited removal, the burden is on the target to prove they didn’t enter illegally within the last two years.
Migrants could still apply for asylum or other protections under the same rules that apply at the border for expedited removal, the secretary said.