Using a little-known government program, the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has pushed nearly 160,000 immigrants — many with deep ties to the United States — through an expedited deportation process, sometimes without adequately informing them of their right to a day in court. Federal authorities are increasingly deporting illegal immigrants through a fast-track program that bypasses court hearings, an effort by the federal government to save money, reduce backlogs and clear detention beds. We see this everyday in our practice as well.
The U.S. has deported more than 160,000 immigrants, the vast majority of whom had no legal representation — and signed documents they may not have understood — under a program that carries severe penalties should they reenter the country. According to the National Immigration Law Center and professors at Stanford Law School and Western State University College of Law, immigrants often signed the so-called stipulated removals because they believed it was the only way to avoid prolonged detention. But by agreeing to the removal order, immigrants can be barred from returning to the U.S. and be subject to criminal prosecution for illegal reentry.
According to a new report, the program, which began nearly a decade ago and dramatically expanded in 2003, has been encouraged by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers at various levels of the organization. According to documents reviewed by the authors of the report, field offices were encouraged to use the program to boost deportation numbers and given incentives to increase the number of stipulated orders of removal signed by detainees in their jurisdictions.
The authors of the report made many recommendations to improve due process protections for immigrants facing removal, including issuing procedures for using interpreters where needed and allowing detainees to attend legal rights presentations before they are offered the removal option. Let us hope changes will be coming soon.