In early October of this year, without much attention or news coverage, the acting head of ICE signaled to employees that once mandatory training is completed by October 16, agents may begin exercising their duties under the expanded expedited removal guidelines. This is a very significant and alarming development that may affect countless numbers of foreign nationals in this country, whether here legally or not. Up until now, the expedited removal process has been limited to individuals encountered within 100 miles of the border and those who have been in the country for less than two weeks. Under the broadened policy, agents are authorized to apply expedited removal to any individual anywhere inside the United States who cannot prove that he/she has been continuously in the country for at least two years. Under expedited removal, individuals are deprived of a court hearing before an Immigration Judge and essentially fast-tracked for removal.
There are a number of disturbing aspects to this new policy, especially at a time like this. For one thing, the burden is on the individual to demonstrate physical presence. If left unchecked, unfettered agent discretion and disparate enforcement can quickly deteriorate into gestapo state tactics and create an atmosphere of terror amongst any immigrant community. Lawful permanent residents and even citizens will be at risk at being arbitrarily questioned as to their status and presence in the US. Worse, there may be people who are in this country for more than two years but summarily removed under this procedure without due process even though they may have valid cases or defenses to removal.
Unfortunately, there is not a lot of information regarding the quality or depth of training officers are receiving, given the scope and significance of these new powers. The only public information the public knows is that the training is given online and officers are supposed to complete their courses by October 16, 2020. There does not appear to be any field training with supervision by experienced officers knowledgeable in immigration procedure.
This may be one of the most distressing developments this year in the field of immigration law. Foreign nationals are urged to carry proof of their lawful immigration status at all times, whether in the form of a green card, US passport, or foreign passport bearing a visa with proof of authorized stay. Those individuals without legal status should strongly consider carrying proof of legal presence in the US for the past two years.
For more information on this new policy and how to preserve your rights, please contact our office for a confidential consultation.