The Trump administration has threatened to expand its use of a fast-track removal process, which could lead to the deportation of thousands of immigrants with valid claims for humanitarian relief or who have family members in the United States.

The Washington Post recently reported obtaining a 13-page draft memorandum from the White House which outlines the administration’s plan to further expand the use of “expedited removal,” a deportation process which has been used for the past 20 years at the border to bypass immigration courts. The draft memo, which has yet to be approved by Department of Homeland Security (DHS), proposes to expand this fast-track removal process to those who are apprehended anywhere in the United States and who are unable to prove they have lived continuously in the country for more than 90 days.

To date, the practice of expedited removal has been reserved for those who are apprehended within 100 miles of the border and who are unable to show physical presence in the country beyond 14 days. Expanding expedited removal to the entirety of the United States, regardless of where individuals are located, may lead to serious due process violations and the deportation of countless individuals, including legitimate asylum seekers, without the chance to first see a judge.

The process also threatens to erroneously sweep up and detain individuals who are unable to quickly produce sufficient documentation that demonstrates they have been in the United States for longer than 90 days.

The leaked memo is part of an effort to implement President Trump’s Executive Order 13767 on border security which directed DHS to apply expedited removal to the fullest extent of the law. The Post reports that the new plan, if implemented, would “represent a major expansion of the agency’s authority to speed up deportations under an administration that has made border security a top priority.”

In 2004, about 50,000 immigrants were removed through expedited removal, compared to about 193,000 in 2013, which accounted for about 44 percent of the total number of people deported that year.  If the proposed policy is implemented, the number of noncitizens who are deported through expedited removal could skyrocket.

Lawyers and advocates have criticized the government’s reliance on fast-track deportation methods due to the significant challenges it creates for those trying to navigate an already complicated immigration system. It’s particularly dire for asylum seekers who when subjected to expedited removal are forced to quickly present their claims of persecution — even though they may be suffering from psychological trauma, have limited access to medical and psychological services from detention, and generally do not have access to counsel.

The price of fast tracking deportations means many vulnerable individuals who have meritorious immigration cases will be denied a day in court and unable to reasonably make their cases.

Photo by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Department of Homeland Security)

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