Deported Without Seeing A Judge: One of the Worst Parts of the Immigration System

"Barack Obama wanted to be the president who signed immigration reform into law. Instead, six years into his presidency, he finds himself under attack from some of his would-be allies in the immigrant rights community. They call him the “deporter-in-chief”—a reference, primarily, to the two million deportations that have already taken place during his presidency.

But advocates are upset about more than the sheer number of deportations. They are also unhappy with the way these deportations are taking place. In most cases, the government doesn’t provide immigrants with due process before returning them. At least three-quarters of people deported in 2012 didn’t get a hearing from an immigration judge, according to statistics from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

This practice isn’t really new. Agents from the Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have long had the authority to send immigrants home without a hearing through an informal, voluntary “return.” Would-be immigrants who went back to their countries this way didn’t end up with marks on their permanent immigration records. Border officers made wide use of this procedure during the Bush Administration.

But starting in 2005, the Department of Homeland Security increased use of a second procedure known as “expedited removal.” This is a formal process, in which the deportee never sees a judge, but the removal still goes on his or her permanent record. That’s a big deal, because it can trigger much harsher penalties if that person ever tries to enter the country again.

Immigration advocates say that rendering a judgment with such steep consequences—if you’ve been deported once, returning to the U.S. makes you a candidate for felony charges and a top priority for ICE agents—without a trial violates the fundamental values of U.S. society. But they have a more immediate concern, too—that many of the immigrants sent home without a hearing don’t know their rights, and don’t realize they could make a legal case to stay in the U.S. if they could only get before a judge." - Nora Caplan-Bricker, The New Republic, Apr. 14, 2014.