The Trump Administration has implemented a new rule to reduce due process protections and make it easier to deport certain aliens who are in the United States unlawfully. Given its questionable legality, clumsy roll-out, and lack of notice, we can expect the new rule--which expands the use of "expedited removal"--to be challenged in court, and so whether it will remain in effect and how it will ultimately be implemented, we do not yet know.

While I don't share the apocalyptic view of some of my colleagues, I do think there is a real danger that the rule gives too much authority to under-trained immigration agents, and that it will result in some non-citizens (and potentially some citizens) being improperly detained and deported in violation of the law. I also think it will further exacerbate the Asylum Office backlog. Worst of all, I expect the new rule will disproportionately impact and terrorize minority communities.

Here, we will take a look at the new rule and what it might mean for asylum seekers and others. But first, we have to talk about "expedited removal." The American Immigration Council describes expedited removal as follows--

Created in 1996, expedited removal is a process by which low-level immigration officers can quickly deport certain non-citizens who are undocumented or have committed fraud or misrepresentation. Since 2004, immigration officials have used expedited removal to deport individuals who arrive at our border, as well as individuals who entered without authorization if they are apprehended within two weeks of arrival and within 100 miles of the Canadian or Mexican border.

Basically, a non-citizen who recently entered the U.S. either without inspection or through fraud, and who is encountered near the border, had less due process protections than someone who has been here for a longer time, who entered lawfully or who is in the interior of the country. People subject to expedited removal do not get to see an Immigration Judge--they are detained and deported quickly (though there are exceptions, discussed below). The new rule expands the use of expedited removal geographically and temporally--

As of July 23, 2019, expedited removal may be applied to individuals who are undocumented, or who have committed fraud or misrepresentation, and who are encountered within the entire United States and who have not been physically present in the United States for two years prior to apprehension

What does this mean in practical terms? If you entered the U.S. lawfully with a visa, and did not commit fraud, expedited removal does not apply to you. Even if you entered unlawfully or without inspection, expedited removal does not apply to you if you have been in the United States for more than two years. These criteria beg the obvious question: How does an immigration agent know whether you entered fraudulently or whether you have been here for less than two years? As I read the rule, it seems that the burden of proof is on the alien. So if you entered legally, keep a copy of your passport, visa, and I-94 with you. If you entered unlawfully more than two years ago, carry evidence showing your length of residency--tax and employment documents, school records, lease agreement, bills, etc. This type of evidence will not protect you from being detained if you are out of status, but it should at least allow you an opportunity to present your case to an Immigration Judge, rather than facing summary removal (for information about what to do if you encounter an ICE agent, click here).

Let's say you are subject to expedited removal and ICE stops you. Then what? If you have a fear of returning to your country, you can express that fear to the immigration agents and you should be afforded a credible fear interview ("CFI"). The CFI is an initial evaluation of eligibility for asylum; it is conducted by an Asylum Officer. If you "pass" the CFI, your case will be referred to Immigration Court where you can present your full asylum case to a Judge. If you "fail" the CFI, you can request an Immigration Judge to review that decision and potentially reverse the negative determination by the Asylum Officer (unfortunately, the likelihood of success for such cases varies significantly depending on the particular Court that hears your case).

If everything were to work according to the law, the new rule should not be too bad: People with a fear of return can still seek asylum and those here unlawfully would be quickly removed (such people generally do not have any defense to being deported). The problem--which is completely predictable since we have seen it before--is that things often do not work according to the law. ICE agents frequently lie to prevent non-citizens from exercising their legal rights. They also make mistakes, which result in people being denied their rights. Further, ICE often engages in racial profiling, and so we know which communities will bear the brunt of the new rule.

In addition, there is the problem of politicization of our nation's immigration enforcement. Every time the President puts out a tough tweet about "illegals," ICE has to scramble to make it come true (or not). The result, of course, is distress and terror in immigrant communities. The new rule seems tailor-made to increase such fears.

Finally, with this new rule, there is the problem of execution. I've described the Trump Administration's approach to immigration as malevolence tempered by incompetence, and this new rule is no different. According to the Migration Policy Institute, there are nearly 300,000 immigrants in the United States who could be subject to expedited removal. When ICE starts detaining these people, we can expect many to ask for a CFI (which is usually their only option). Since CFIs are conducted by Asylum Officers, the new rule will shift resources away from "regular" affirmative asylum cases and will likely exacerbate the backlog (ironically, the whole point of the LIFO system was to deter frivolous cases by making the process faster--the new rule will have the exact opposite effect). Further, people whose CFIs are denied can ask an Immigration Judge to review that decision, thus taking additional resources from the Courts and causing more "aimless docket reshuffling."

The new expedited removal rule seems to me predicated on two myths: First, that there is a pressing danger from non-citizens living in our country. Empirical data does not support this conclusion; rather, it is based on racist and xenophobic stereotypes perpetrated by the current Administration. Second is the myth that our country would be safer if we traded some of our liberty for more security. And make no mistake, when under-trained immigration officials are given near carte blanche to investigate anyone deemed "foreign," we are--all of us--giving up some of our liberty. As my favorite Founding Father, Ben Franklin, once wrote, "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." The new rule reduces our liberty, does nothing to enhance our safety, and sows more fear among our immigrant neighbors. It is another sad step towards the degradation of our great country.

Originally posted on the Asylumist: