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Appeals court says Trump administration can move forward with expanding fast-track deportations

Appeals court says Trump administration can move forward with expanding fast-track deportations

A federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled that the Trump administration move forward with expanding a procedure for quickly deporting undocumented immigrants despite a lawsuit against the program.

A three-judge panel on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a preliminary injunction against the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) new rule that significantly expands the number of undocumented immigrants who can be deported without being able to make their case to a judge or accessing an attorney.

In the 2-1 ruling, the majority wrote that a group of nonprofits had legal standing to bring the lawsuit but that immigration law granting broad authority to DHS makes their case unlikely to succeed.

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"There could hardly be a more definitive expression of congressional intent to leave the decision about the scope of expedited removal, within statutory bounds, to the Secretary’s independent judgment," Judge Patricia Millett wrote in the majority decision.

Millett, an Obama appointee, and Judge Harry Edwards, a Carter appointee, were in the panel's majority. Judge Neomi Rao, appointed by President TrumpDonald John TrumpMore than 300 military family members endorse Biden Five takeaways from the final Trump-Biden debate Biden: 'I would transition from the oil industry' MORE, dissented, arguing the lawsuit should have been thrown out altogether.

Make the Road New York, one of the immigration groups that brought the suit, vowed to keep fighting the new policy.

“Expanding the expedited removal policy strips immigrants of the fundamental right of due process and destroys families, including those who have lived in the United States for years and are caught up in a dragnet enforcement tool that is prone to error and abuse," Javier Valdés, the group's co-executive director, said in a statement. "While we applaud the court’s finding that this change is reviewable, we strongly reject its allowing the policy take effect. We will continue to fight against Trump’s illegal fast-track deportation policy.”

Congress passed a law in 1996 allowing immigration officials sweeping power to quickly deport recently arrived undocumented immigrants. But in the years since the law was implemented, it had mostly been applied to migrants at the border.

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Then, last year, the Trump administration moved to expand the scope of the program to include any undocumented immigrant in the U.S. who could not prove they had been in the country for more than two years.

Tuesday's ruling lifts a preliminary injunction that had been in place since September when a federal judge in D.C. sided with a coalition of immigrant advocacy groups, saying that DHS had not complied with procedural requirements in establishing the new rule.

Three groups — Make the Road New York, La Union Del Pueblo Entero and We Count! — filed their lawsuit in August. They argued that the the administration's expansion threatened to exacerbate an expedited deportation process already rife with problems.

"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 twenty 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 lawsuit reads.

"That experience shows that the government has erroneously deported numerous individuals through expedited removal, including U.S. citizens and individuals with bona fide fears of persecution in their countries of origin."

A coalition of 17 states and D.C. backed the lawsuit, arguing the new rule would impose significant burdens on local and state officials and deprive undocumented immigrants in their communities of due process.

Updated at 2:20 p.m.