Hispanic Caucus demands ICE suspend expedited removals
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) on Thursday demanded that the Trump administration suspend a program that allows federal immigration agents to quickly deport many foreign nationals without a hearing or the possibility of appeal.
In a letter to acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and Tony Pham, the senior official performing the duties of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) director, CHC Chairman Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-Texas) wrote that “implementation of this consequential policy lacks meaningful transparency and appears rushed.”
ICE last week announced implementation of the policy, which had been on the books since July, expanding the number of foreign nationals who are subject to expedited removals.
The most significant change is that ICE agents are allowed to detain and expeditiously remove undocumented immigrants found anywhere in the United States, rather than just near the border.
To be subject to expedited removal, an undocumented immigrant must also have been in the United States for less than two years and not have received parole.
The policy has been criticized for putting too much power in the hands of individual agents, who can single-handedly decide the fate of immigrants they encounter, and for putting the burden of proving a more-than-two-year stay on undocumented immigrants, who often lack access to help or representation.
“[Expedited removal] has far fewer procedural protections than formal removal proceedings with the foreign-born citizens possessing no right to counsel, no right to a hearing, and no right to appeal an adverse ruling to the Board of Immigration Appeals,” wrote Castro.
“This expansion has prompted significant questions concerning the relationship between the federal government’s broad power over the entry and removal of immigrants and the due process rights of immigrants located within the United States,” he added.
The CHC letter also criticizes the training process ICE agents must go through to be eligible to enforce expedited removals. ICE announced a web-based training course, but the CHC alleges no detailed information is available on what the course entails.
“No other information is readily available on how DHS and ICE plan to execute this policy, the process underlying expanded ER, the content of the training course, or when the policy becomes effective. DHS and ICE must thoroughly inform Congress about the status of this policy and how it will be carried out by newly trained ICE officers,” wrote Castro.
Representatives for ICE did not immediately provide a response to the letter.
Castro, who was joined in signing the letter by 16 other CHC members, included a laundry list of questions for Wolf and Pham on everything from the scope of expansion for expedited removal, to details on the training course and what actions ICE agents should take when encountering foreign nationals who claim to have a visa.
The letter is the latest in a long back-and-forth between the CHC and DHS, two institutions that have butted heads over immigration policy even before the Trump administration.