Gov't Expands Who Qualifies for Quicker Deportation
WESLACO – Changes in effect as of Tuesday will allow for an increase in who can be deported from the country faster.
A notice was issued Monday by the Department of Homeland Security which effectively increases the agency's reach of who it can place in expedited removal.
Previously, anyone in the country illegally for up to two weeks could be deported as soon as they were detained.
Now, that window was extended from two weeks to two years.
Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents will be asking immigrants they detain to show how long they've lived in the country; that will determine how they're processed.
If they've lived in the country for more than two years, they will go through normal immigration proceedings.
Anything less can mean they are placed in expedited removal.
"Basically what means is that you can be deported without having a meeting with a judge," explains Jodi Goodwin who represents many people with those orders.
Acting ICE Director Matthew Albence said during a press call Tuesday morning there's nearly 1 million people with final orders of removal.
More than half of those, about 576,000, are classified as fugitives who have no more legal recourse and did not self-deport.
The policy became effective Tuesday.
Albence says they're working on how to implement the changes.
"We're in the process of developing implementation guidance with regard to how we will operationalize the new policy," the acting director stated.
People stopped by agents will be asked to show proof of how long they've lived in the country.
That can come in the form of a variety of documents including, "home ownership, school records, medical records, church records, work records, any financial documentation, bank statements," explained Goodwin.
Albence said these changes are an expansion of a law signed in 1996 that gives the authority to quickly deport people who were in the country less than 14 days and within 100 miles from the border.
He says enforcement won't be random.
"First off, we don't racially profile. Okay, as I mentioned before we conduct targeted enforcement actions against individuals that we know. So, we make a traffic stop on somebody after they've dropped their kid off at school it's because we know who that individual is, who that car belongs to, and we know that that individual is either here illegally in the country or has violated the terms of their lawful admission," said Albence.
Goodwin is skeptical; she says most of her clients who have faced expedited removal, historically, are not part of targeted enforcement actions.
She recalls, "In the panorama of people that I talk to who come to my office asking for legal help, very few have been subjected to a targeted enforcement action. Almost all of them are stopped or questioned on the street, or have Border Patrol call on them at a traffic stop, and it's not related to a targeted enforcement action."
Albence explains they're doing this thinking of the thousands who continue coming hoping to stay.
It's one of several recent changes targeting domestic immigration enforcement as a way to increase detention space and decrease the immigration backlog.
For those who are stopped, Goodwin advises to ask if they are free to leave or are being detained.
If they are being detained, they have the right to remain silent and a right to request legal counsel.
Goodwin recommends people who think they could be questioned to carry documents dating back two years to prove residency.
You can do that by keeping an accordion filing folder or by scanning the relevant documents and creating a PDF file that can be stored on a phone.
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