With immigration courts reaching a record backlog in 2016, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly ordered Monday that DHS review expanding the amount of illegal immigrants that can be be deported without a court hearing.
Kelly signed two memos Monday that made significant changes to the nation’s immigration policy. They ordered the immediate construction of a border wall, expanded the amount of local police who will enforce immigration law, and put every illegal immigrant — excluding those protected under President Obama’s executive amnesty — at risk of deportation.
Condemnation of the plan by pro-immigration activists and Democratic politicians was swift. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement Tuesday, “By targeting those without serious convictions, those who have merely been charged with offenses, or those recent arrivals — including unaccompanied children — who have posed no safety threat to our neighborhoods, the President has chosen the politics of division over our nation’s safety.”
The policy director of the Center for Immigration Studies Jessica Vaughan, who advocates for reduced immigration, on the other hand told Newsweek the memos are a “welcome move.”
One of the lesser noticed policy directives in the memos was that Secretary Kelly made it possible that hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants could be up for immediate deportation.
“It is in the national interest to detain and expeditiously remove from the United States aliens apprehended at the border, who have been ordered removed after consideration and denial of their claims for relief or protection,” Kelly wrote in one of the two memos.
Existing immigration law allows an immigration officer to order the removal of an illegal immigrant without a court hearing, unless the illegal immigrant is an unaccompanied child or is applying for asylum.
Kelly went to write that he will consider expanding this authority, known as the “expedited removal provisions,” to include illegal immigrants who have not been physically present in the U.S. for two years. An estimated 300,000 to 400,000 illegal immigrants enter the U.S. every year.
“To date, this authority has only been exercised to designate for application of expedited removal, aliens encountered within 100 air miles of the border and 14 days of entry, and aliens who arrived in the United States by sea other than at a port of entry,” the Homeland Security secretary wrote.
U.S. immigration courts reached a record backlog of 533,909 cases at the end of 2016, more than double the 223,809 pending cases when President Obama took office in 2009. Secretary Kelly used this backlog to justify his decision. (RELATED: Former Mexican Official Wants To Sabotage US Courts With Thousands Of Deportation Cases)
“This unacceptable delay affords removable aliens with no plausible claim for relief to remain unlawfully in the United States for many years,” Kelly wrote.
Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, told The Daily Caller, “Congress gave the executive this wide ‘expedited removal’ authority in the 1996 immigration law, which keeps cases out of the immigration courts, but all the administrations since then have applied it very narrowly. So this simply represents the executive using this congressionally granted authority to its full extent.”
The memo calls for the DHS to publish a notice in the Federal Register designating aliens subject to expedited removal. This notice as yet to be published, and a department spokeswoman told TheDC, “there is not a specified time at this point” for publication.
Correction: Kelly directed a review of expedited removal, not specifically a notice for illegal immigrants who have been in the U.S. for less than two years.