WASHINGTON — The Trump administration said on Monday it would speed the deportations of undocumented immigrants who cannot prove they have been in the United States for more than two years, allowing federal agents to arrest and deport people without a hearing before a judge.
The shift, published in the Federal Register, will more aggressively enforce immigration laws that, until now, generally called for the deportation of migrants who had been in the United States for only a few weeks and remained 100 miles from the southwestern border. It was announced a week after Trump administration officials said they would severely restrict asylum at the border.
Critics warned that the new rule, set to take effect on Tuesday, could also prevent asylum seekers from applying for refuge in the United States before they are deported.
“It’s a pile-on,” said Royce Murray, a managing director of the American Immigration Council, a nonprofit advocacy organization that plans to challenge the program’s expansion in court.
The administration, she said, was “definitely throwing everything they have at asylum seekers in an effort to turn everyone humanly possible away and to deport as many people as possible.”
“There’s no other conclusion to draw,” Ms. Murray added.
Kevin K. McAleenan, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said the expanded rule would “help to alleviate some of the burden and capacity issues,” including freeing beds at detention facilities.
In the 2018 fiscal year, the department expedited deportations for migrants who had been held for an average of 11 days. It usually takes an average of 51 days to remove migrants from the United States, officials have said.
The new rule would ensure that deportations could be carried out over “weeks — not months or years,” said Theresa Cardinal Brown, the director of immigration and cross-border policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center.
Taken together, the Trump administration’s recent spate of restrictive immigration policies could bar significant numbers of people from seeking asylum in the United States.
Last week, the administration announced that it would deny protections to immigrants who fail to apply for asylum in at least one country they pass through on their way north. The shift prevents nearly all Central Americans who are seeking asylum from entering the United States, and was challenged in court by a coalition of immigrant advocates the day after it was announced.
Former homeland security officials and immigration advocates agreed that the policy announced on Monday would also likely be challenged in court.
The former rules for fast-tracking deportations, as enacted in 1996, made clear that the program could be expanded in the future if faced with a surge of illegal immigration.
Ms. Brown, who worked at the department from 2005 to 2011, said officials then were concerned about how someone stopped by immigration agents could prove they had been in the United States for more than two years.
Immigrant-rights advocates, who had been preparing for the announcement since early in President Trump’s term, shared those concerns on Monday.
“This is a national ‘show me your papers’ law,” Ms. Murray said, referring to a now-infamous Arizona immigration statute that required the police to question the legal status of anyone who was suspected of being in the United States illegally.
“The burden is on the individual to prove that expedited removal does not apply to them,” she said. “So if you don’t have the necessary paperwork on you — to show that you have a lease, or that you have status — then you could be taken into custody to try to fight this. And the problem is that this is a fast tracked process.”
Immigrants who are eligible for asylum and placed into expedited removal proceedings will still be entitled to an interview with an asylum officer if they claim a fear of returning to their country.
Given the administration’s attempt to restrict asylum, Stephen Yale-Loehr, a professor of immigration at Cornell Law School, said that some immigrants could be removed in violation of their due process rights.
“Some U.S. citizens may also be erroneously expeditiously removed because they can’t prove their citizenship to the satisfaction of an immigration agent,” Mr. Yale-Loehr said. “This notice is the latest attack in the Trump administration’s war on immigrants.”
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