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Unchecked Authority: Expedited Removals Explained

Expedited removal is a process that was created in 1996 allowing low-level immigration officers deport non-citizens without going through the removal process. Immigration officers can target individuals who are undocumented or have committed small offenses and automatically deport them right at the scene. Individuals can also be deported when they arrive at the border without documents or if they are apprehended within two weeks of arrival in 100 miles of the Mexican or Canadian border. The general law states that this process is only applicable to Mexican and Canadian nationals who have a history of criminal or immigration violations or any other individual who is crossing through Mexico or Canada.

Expedited removal occurs very quickly and individuals will often be deported without a proper immigration hearing in court. This process could wrongfully send a person back to a place where they are in danger or harm without an opportunity to defend themselves. The officer that proceeds with expedited removal has unchecked authority and is able to make the decision all on their own terms without a judge present. This process occurs at such a fast speed that individuals often do not have a chance to consult with an attorney or family member before an outcome precedes. Individuals who would be able to make a claim for “relief from removal” often cannot pursue such relief because of the accelerated process.

Expedited Removal continues to rise over the past two decades. In the fiscal year 2013, roughly 193,000 individuals were deported out of the United States through expedited removal which is about 44% of all deportations in that year.

Expedited removal does not apply to US citizens, green card holders, refugees, asylees or asylum seekers. Those who are seeking asylum will be transferred to an asylum officer to determine if they have “credible fear” of persecution. If that individual had been deported before, the asylum officer will determine if they have “reasonable fear” which is higher than credible fear. If the officer finds that they do not have either reasonable fear or credible fear than they are able to process them for deportation. The asylum seeker has an opportunity to dispute the officer’s decision by requesting a court date within 7 days and will be held until their case is processed.

The biggest concerns within expedited removals are the role that the officer plays in the whole process and how asylum cases are handled. The officer who is placing the noncitizen into expedited removal is taking on the role of not only the prosecutor but also the judge which can easily be conflicting. This duel role does not give an individual an adequate chance to present their case especially during a time of hardship and trauma. There have been previous expedited removal cases where immigration officers have influenced asylum seekers from retracting their application for admission - and with that - their request for asylum altogether. Other government officials have failed in asking asylum seekers if they feared returning home, making it impossible for them to later claim credible fear.

If you have any questions regarding the expedited removals process please contact Attorney Nicholas Mireles at

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