Fast-Track Deportations Rise; Is There Due Process?


Federal authorities increasingly are deporting illegal immigrants through a fast-track program that bypasses court hearings, reports the Los Angeles Times. It is an effort by the federal government to save money, reduce backlogs, and clear detention beds. The number of detainees in California and across the U.S. who agreed to be deported without first seeing a judge jumped fivefold between 2004 and 2007, from 5,481 to nearly 31,554. In the first half of 2008, 17,445 speedy deportation orders were signed. Nearly half of all such orders since 1999 were issued in three locations — Lancaster, Ca.; Los Fresnos, Tx., and Eloy, Az., said provided to the Stanford Law School Immigrants’ Rights Clinic under a Freedom of Information Act request.

Attorneys, advocates, and judges have raised concerns about the dramatic rise in fast-track deportations, saying they have resulted in many immigrants being deported without knowing their rights or understanding the consequences. “That is everyone’s underlying concern — is there due process here?” said Gilbert Gembacz, a retired immigration judge in Los Angeles. “Are people getting a full explanation? Are they getting a case-by-case review of all their options? I don’t think they are. I think they are being told, ‘Hi. You’re here illegally, and we are going to send you back.’ ” Jayashri Srikantiah, the director of the Stanford clinic, said some detainees are pressured to sign deportation forms even though they may have defenses against deportation or be eligible for asylum or green cards. About 95% of the people who agreed to the speedy deportations since 1999 are not represented by attorneys. “We have people mostly who are in detention in remote locations, without lawyers, who are non-English speakers, and they are being asked to sign away their rights,” Srikantiah said. Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities counter that the program is voluntary and that deportation officers clearly explain options to detainees, including the choice to see a judge.

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