Secret U.S. Deportations at Issue in New Lawsuit

     BOSTON (CN) – Hoping to shed light on a “secretive” process that accounts for a third of U.S. deportations annually, two nonprofits have sued for access to federal records.
     The practice of “summarily reinstating prior orders of removal, deportation, and exclusion” affects thousands of noncitizens a year, according to the April 13 federal complaint filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Lawyers Guild’s National Immigration Project.
     In the standard process of deportation, a noncitizen receives a full hearing before an immigration judge and can make an administrative appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals. Noncitizens may also petition for a judicial review.
     Reinstatements do not allow for a hearing before a judge, however, unless the noncitizen is able to successfully argue that they have a “reasonable fear” of return, such as with certain refugees who might be tortured if they were return to their nation of origin, according to the lawsuit.
     “Their summary nature has led to unjust deportations of individuals fleeing persecution, longtime U.S. residents, and others with claims or even existing rights to be in the United States,” the complaint states.
     The ACLU and the guild also note that “the speed and lack of critical due process protections in the reinstatement process” has led the Department of Homeland Security to unlawfully order the removal of “individuals fleeing persecution, longtime U.S. residents, individuals with bonafide citizenship claims, and others with claims, or event existing rights, to be in the United States.”
     Though government data shows that 170,247 reinstatement orders were issued in 2013, the nonprofits say there is no further information about the nature of those reinstatements available.
     The plaintiffs have allegedly made repeated inquiries to the Homeland Security and U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement for records on these orders, including the circumstances and outcomes of each case.
     “The public and advocates know far too little about the reinstatement process,” the complaint states. “Defendants have released to the public very few directives or memoranda setting forth the policies and procedures governing the reinstatement process. Defendants similarly have failed to disclose basic information concerning those subject to reinstatement, including their ages, nationalities, and whether they reported a fear of persecution.”
     A spokeswoman for Homeland Security emphasized in an interview that reinstatement orders are typically used against a noncitizen who has been previously been deported, only to return or attempt to return to the United States.
     “If they come back into our country we can reinstate a previous deportation order,” spokeswoman Danielle Bennett said.
     Bennett declined to comment on the lawsuit but did provide general data about deportations and a policy memo from November 2014 that calls for prosecutorial discretion on a case-by-case basis.
     The memo also calls for the collection of more detailed data on deportations.
     The federal government conducted a total of 315,943 deportations in 2014 according to ICE data. Of that total, 102,224 removals were of individual inside the county, while 213,719 were conducted on people attempting to unlawfully enter the country, according to the ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations report from fiscal year 2014, which was released last December.
     The only reference in the report to reinstatement orders is a definition of the process, with no further information about the frequency in which the administrative process is used for deporting noncitizens.

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