Trump's fast-tracked deportations may be only solution to backlog

Trump's fast-tracked deportations may be only solution to backlog
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An alien who seeks admission to the United States without valid documents can be sent home without a hearing, and, this does not apply just to aliens at the border.  An undocumented alien may be viewed as “seeking admission” even if he has been living here for more than a year.   

But for immigration purposes, words mean whatever the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) says they mean.

Section 235(a)(1) of the INA says that an alien who is in the United States but has not been “admitted” shall be viewed as an applicant for admission for purposes of this Act. And section 101(a)(13) of the INA says that the terms "admission" and "admitted" mean a lawful entry into the United States after an inspection and authorization by an immigration officer.

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This makes it possible for DHS to use expedited removal proceedings to deport undocumented aliens who already are in the United States without giving them hearings before an immigration judge, which is necessary now because the immigration court is experiencing a backlog crisis.

As of the end of August 2017, the immigrant court's backlog was 632,261 cases, and the immigration court has only 330 immigration judges. The backlog is getting larger every year because the judges are not even able to keep up with the new cases they receive each year.

This chart was taken from the Executive Office for Immigration Review’s (EOIR) FY 2016 Statistics Yearbook:

At a panel discussion on the immigration court backlog, Immigration Judge Larry Burman said, “I cannot give you a merits hearing on my docket unless I take another case off. My docket is full through 2020, and I was instructed by my assistant chief immigration judge not to set any cases past 2020.”

The backlog cannot be eliminated just by hiring more judges.  Lawyers with immigration law experience who want to be a judge are not easy to find, and EOIR should resolve the problems it is having with the judges it already has before hiring new ones.

From FY2013 to FY2017, 379 complaints were filed against immigration judges.

And a recent Reuters’ investigation found gross disparities among the immigration courts in how frequently immigrants are deported.  GAO reached the same conclusion in its November 2016 report on variation in the outcomes of applications across immigration courts and judges.     

Expedited removal proceedings may be the only realistic way to eliminate the backlog.        

In expedited removal proceedings, which are conducted by immigration officers, an alien who lacks proper documentation or has committed fraud or a willful misrepresentation to enter the country, can be deported without a hearing before an immigration judge, unless he has a credible fear of persecution.  

Previous administrations limited these proceedings to aliens at the border and aliens who had entered without inspection but were apprehended no more than 100 miles from the border after spending less than 14 days in the country.

Trump opted to use expedited removal proceedings to the full extent authorized by law.  In his Executive Order, “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements,” he orders the DHS Secretary to use the proceedings for the aliens designated in section 235(b)(1)(A)(iii)(II) of the INA, i.e., aliens who are in the United States but were not lawfully admitted and cannot establish that they have been here continuously for two years.

If an alien wants an asylum hearing before an immigration judge, he has to establish to the satisfaction of an asylum officer that he has a credible fear of persecution.  If the asylum officer is not persuaded, the alien can request an abbreviated review by an immigration judge, which usually is held within 24 hours.

Immigration officers should not be making unreviewable decisions about whether to deport someone who has lived in the United States for up to two years.  I would prefer replacing the immigration officers with immigration judges for proceedings involving aliens who are already in the United States.

Expedited removal proceedings are not used for unaccompanied alien children.

The William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVRPA) exempts certain unaccompanied alien children (UAC) from expedited removal proceedings.

Trump has asked Congress to amend the TVRPA to restrict the unaccompanied alien children protections.  In the meantime, steps are being taken to deter parents from bringing their children here illegally.

ICE will be putting the parents of UACs in removal proceedings if they are undocumented aliens too, and if a smuggler was paid, they might be prosecuted for human trafficking.

Immigrant advocates still have time to work with Trump on immigration reform legislation, but once Trump has implemented an expanded expedited removal proceedings program, he is not going to be inclined to stop it.  And it could start soon.  He recently issued a Request for Information to identify multiple possible detention sites for holding criminal aliens and other immigration violators.

Nolan Rappaport was detailed to the House Judiciary Committee as an executive branch immigration law expert for three years; he subsequently served as an immigration counsel for the Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims for four years. Prior to working on the Judiciary Committee, he wrote decisions for the Board of Immigration Appeals for 20 years.