"Expedited Removal" Process Limits Access to Legal Counsel

March 4, 2013 7:23 AM by Lyttle Law Firm, PLLC

As an immigration attorney in Texas, I recognize that the legal system has its faults and that the immigration system possesses its share of problems, but I also firmly believe that everyone should have access to the judicial process. It has been reported that the Department of Homeland Security has sidestepped the courts by expanding its use of the "Expedited Removal" process in which a suspect is not granted any legal representation or advice but is subject to the decisions of an immigrations or border patrol officer. These decisions often result in the deportation of the individual in question.

Expedited Removal was granted to the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agencies in the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996. This act allows immigration officers to remove or deport non-citizens who lack proper entry documents or have gained entry through fraudulent documents.

Initially Expedited Removal was used by these agencies only at ports of entry or along the border, but in 2004, the Bush Administration expanded its use to those areas within one hundred miles of the southern U.S. border. Individuals who are subject to Expedited Removal must lack evidence of having resided in the U.S. for more than two years. Furthermore, once the removal decision has been made by an immigration officer, the individual cannot appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals as is typical in most other immigration cases, unless the individual wishes to apply for asylum due to a substantial fear of persecution within their home country.

Individuals who receive a removal judgment are deported immediately or are detained until deportation can occur. If the individual claims the status of a citizen or documented resident, then they may be detained until able to present their case before an immigration judge. If the judgment is upheld, then the individual is barred from returning to the United States for at least five years. If fraud or misrepresentation has occurred then the individual is barred from entering the country for their lifetime.

In the past, the CBP and ICE have reserved Expedited Removal for a handful of cases and resorted to the immigration courts to process the majority of deportation proceedings. In recent years, however, immigration agencies have ramped up the use of Expedited Removal to the point that hundreds of thousands may now be deported without ever speaking to a judge or attorney. This policy is now under review in the courts in relevant cases like one involving Martha Ledesma, an undocumented alien who has been residing in the U.S. since 1991. Groups like the National Lawyers Guild and the ACLU have stepped in to support individuals like Ledesma.

This large scale deportation operation is occurring without due process. I eagerly await the decisions of judges and courts in these cases.

If you or someone you know is involved in an Expedited Removal case or has some questions about it, please contact my office at (512) 215-5225 to schedule a private meeting.