By Akua Amaning
America’s Founding Fathers built our government on bedrock principles, rooted in fair and just processes and the idea that government should not have the power to tyrannize the people it is supposed to serve. They made sure the Constitution included measures that aspired to defend the civil liberties of the many, without infringing on the rights of the few. Due process is key to this. It guarantees life and liberty for all and ensures that at no time can the government use its power to overstep those bounds without just cause. It protects the freedoms that we are afforded as citizens and that so many immigrants who have come to our shores over the last centuries have risked their lives to obtain.
Despite due process being so married to the fabric of America’s identity, Donald Trump is now attempting to eviscerate even this basic American protection through his latest move to dramatically expand “expedited removal” for immigrants across the country. Expedited removal gives immigration officers sweeping authority to order the rapid deportation of undocumented immigrants, without the opportunity to be heard by an immigration judge. Prior to the new policy the Trump administration just announced, expedited removal could only be used within 100 miles of the border and only if a person could not prove they had been in the US more than 14 days. Now the administration is making this narrow exception to due process the rule, by horrifically inviting rapid deportation from anywhere in the US if an immigrant cannot prove they have been in the US for at least two years. That’s an exponential increase in both duration and geographic scale that runs roughshod over the very notion of judicial protection and flips the burden of proof on its head in order to benefit the government.
The administration claims that the expansion will alleviate immigration court backlogs and lower detention facility populations, but simply put, this rule expansion is un-American and an extreme violation of due process. Under Trump’s new rule, any immigration officer, whether experienced or new to immigration enforcement, can serve as both prosecutor and judge in decisions with enormous stakes. To make matters worse, establishing any defense from deportation, including how long you’ve been in the US, is completely up to the detained immigrant to prove immediately at the time of arrest. This is a virtually impossible standard for anyone walking down the street in any city or county in America. And that’s the cruel point. Trump desperately wants to ramp up enforcement, and he’s willing to erode American values to do it.
These unattainable requirements paired with unchecked authority will breed a culture of institutionalized racial profiling. We’ve seen this before. In 2010, Arizona enacted the infamous “Show Me Your Papers” Law (SB 1070). The law required state law enforcement officers to detain anyone whom they believed may be in the US illegally — regardless of their actual status — and drew immense condemnation for its ability to lead to widespread racial profiling. Because who do you think immigration officers will stop on the street? You can bet it won’t be folks who look like Donald Trump or the White House’s lead anti-immigrant policy architect Stephen Miller.
That means the risk of rapid deportation is not just limited to undocumented immigrants. This policy makes a target of anyone who looks “out of place” on the street by immigration enforcement officers. If an American citizen or legal resident is picked up and has no way of proving their status, there is a high chance they too could be erroneously detained or deported. These aren’t theoretical concerns. We have already seen thousands of such cases under normal immigration proceedings. Just last week, 18-year-old Francisco Erwin Galicia, a US citizen, was released from immigration custody after spending an entire month in a detention facility. Even with a copy of his birth certificate, a state-issued ID, and social security card, border protection officers assumed his documentation was fraudulent and detained him to await deportation. Imagine the consequences that will ensue under Trump’s nationwide “show me your papers” edict.
If the basic assumptions and biases of border and immigration enforcement agents are already sufficient to hold a citizen in immigration detention, expanding expedited removals will now put them on a path to erroneous deportation without so much as a hearing. And although the expanded rule does not require immigration officers to expedite deportation in every case, this administration has shown time and time again that their goal is to reduce the number of immigrants in this country by unprecedented numbers, so there’s no reason to think they wouldn’t use this policy to simply shove people — regardless of their legal right to be here — out the door. Ultimately, Trump’s willingness to systematically disregard basic constitutional rights puts everyone, whether a citizen or immigrant, at risk.
Trump’s latest attack on our immigration system is un-American and a clear violation of our nation’s core values. In his latest attempt to rid our country of every immigrant he can, the president has decided to completely ignore the right to due process, placing the life and liberty of so many at risk. Across the political spectrum, Americans want to fix our broken immigration system in a way that protects, rather than decimates, our country’s values. We need real and comprehensive immigration reform. Demolishing due process isn’t going to get us anywhere.