On July 23, 2019, the Trump administration expanded the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) authority for expedited removal.
This means ICE agents can independently question, arrest, detain, and deport—with only approval from a field supervisor— any undocumented immigrant who has been living in the U.S. for less than two years.
Enacted by Congress in 1996, expedited removal allows immigration officials to sidestep the federal removal process, which includes court hearings, appeals, and judge-ordered final deportation. During Bill Clinton’s presidency, the rule was used only against individuals who entered a U.S. port of entry without valid travel documents or a visa.
The Bush administration expanded the rule to include people caught within 100 miles of the southern (U.S-Mexico) and northern (U.S.-Canada) border. President Barack Obama didn’t make any changes during his two terms.
As of July 23, the expedited removal process now applies throughout the country—not just the borders. ICE claims they will only conduct “targeted enforcement operations,” rather than “random or indiscriminate” raids.
One of the main concerns among immigration attorneys and advocacy groups is that these raids will also include U.S. citizens and permanent legal residents and the lack of checks and balances to avoid this problem. For example, a 17-year-old boy who was born in Dallas was arrested by Border Patrol agents and detained for 26 days—despite carrying a Texas state ID and a copy of his birth certificate—before the local news ran a story about the case.
According to government data, ICE agents questioned 27,540 U.S. citizens since Trump took office. In the Obama era, ICE agents questioned 5,940 U. Citizens.
A 2015 study about expedited removal by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom found that Border Patrol agents violated the protocols of this rule. There were some cases where agents didn’t ask if the undocumented immigrants were afraid of going back to their home country and other cases where agents neglected to write down whenever an immigrant claimed asylum.
In fact, the main exception to the expedited removal rule is when an undocumented immigrant claims asylum. If an immigrant fears returning to his/her home country, immigration officials are required to temporarily stop the deportation process until the immigrant’s claims are heard by an asylum officer.