Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is planning to carry out draconian policy that would let mass deportation officers all over the U.S. bypass the immigration court system entirely and quickly deport undocumented immigrants who can’t immediately prove they’ve lived in the U.S. for at least two years, BuzzFeed News reports.
A federal judge had blocked the policy last year, but that was squashed by an appeals court this year. “Expedited Removal is one of the scariest potential attacks that immigration lawyers have feared ICE could launch on a community,” tweeted Michael Kagan, director of the UNLV Immigration Clinic. “It means taking someone and deporting them, with no lawyer and no court, from anywhere in America.”
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This “expedited removal” policy has already devastated communities along the border for many years, where immigration agents commonly feel they have free rein. “The previous policy only allowed officials to use expedited removal within 100 miles of the border and for those who have been in the country for up to two weeks,” BuzzFeed News continued.
The Trump administration then last summer moved to expand this policy nationwide, earning rebukes from advocates. Imagine agents target you on your way to work, American Immigration Council policy counsel Aaron Reichlin-Melnick tweeted at the time, “and an ICE officer tells you that unless you prove to him—right here, right now—that you’ve lived here for more than two years, you’re on the next plane out.” Think being a U.S. citizen will protect you? The U.S. has a history of deporting U.S. citizens.
The move was quickly blocked by a federal judge that fall, who “ruled that the suing immigration advocacy groups, Make the Road New York, LUPE (La Unión del Pueblo Entero) and We Count, were likely to prevail in ongoing litigation and show irreparable harm being suffered by those they represent, including many legal immigrants and asylum seekers who could be swept up and expelled from the country without legal recourse,” The Washington Post reported at the time.
But then in a devastating win for the Trump administration, a district court lifted that injunction. So ICE could very well continue with its fast-tracked deportation plan in the middle of a pandemic. I mean, as Election Day approaches it’s already plastering anti-immigrant propaganda on billboards and purposefully targeting blue regions of the U.S., so ICE is just going full-out now to protect its survival as it is now.
“ICE, who has really never had any internal immigration use of expedited removal ever since it was passed in 1996, has now been handed the equivalent of a loaded gun and now being told to use it responsibly,” Reichlin-Melnick told Bloomberg Government. “There are a lot of serious concerns over whether an agency like ICE, who has never had this authority before, can be trusted to establish appropriate safeguards.”
But we already know ICE can’t be trusted. BuzzFeed News reports that immigrants facing deportation under the policy may use a lease or school records as proof of their time in the U.S., like sure, everyone carries that around with them all the time. “If they don’t have the documents immediately, they will be given a ‘brief but reasonable opportunity’ to get them,” the report continues. But when ICE knows it won’t be accountable to anyone, how can that be enforced?
It must be up to a new Congress—under a new president—to fix the law and protect all immigrants everywhere, both at the border and within the U.S. “The presidential election in November will decide whether the policy will continue to be implemented,” BuzzFeed News continued. “It’s unlikely that former vice president Joe Biden would allow ICE officers to continue enforcing the expanded use of expedited removal.”