Groups sue to stop new expedited deportation policy

by Suzanne Potter

A change to immigration policy now allows ICE to fast-track deportations of anyone who cannot prove they've lived in the United States for two years. (Pixelrain/AdobeStock)

Carson City – Civil rights groups are suing the feds to stop a new policy of fast-tracking deportation for anyone who cannot prove they’ve been in the United States continuously for the past two years.

Hear an audio report from Suzanne Potter

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., claims the policy is an unconstitutional violation of a person’s right to due process. Attorney Anand Balakrishnan with the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said it’s unfair to deport people without a meaningful hearing or time to consult a lawyer.

“Essentially,” he said, “what this does is strip non-citizens of their fundamental right to a fair hearing on the question as to whether they should be deported or not.”

In the past, fast-track deportations only were applied to people caught near the border or who had been in the United States for a few weeks. But two weeks ago, the Trump administration expanded the policy to cover anyone in the country who is undocumented and can’t show proof that they’ve lived in the United States for at least two years. The administration has said the change is needed to free up detention beds and reduce the backlog in the immigration courts.

Undocumented people who have been in the United States for more than two years still can be deported, but they retain the right to get an attorney to fight the removal. Balakrishnan called the new rules a dramatic escalation in the current administration’s attacks on immigrant communities.

“In some ways, it is just another example of the administration’s steady drumbeat of new and repressive laws toward both immigrants and their families,” he said, “but we’re hopeful that the court will step in.”

The new policy, which took effect July 23, could apply to hundreds of thousands of undocumented people. This week’s lawsuit asks for an immediate injunction to stop the expansion of fast-track deportations, and requests that the policy be reversed altogether.

Details of the lawsuit are online at aclu.org.