US bishops decry policy of expedited removal of undocumented migrants

Border Marker at San Ysidro JD CNA file photo CNA Josh Denmark/US Customs and Border Protection (CC BY-SA 2.0).

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops spoke out Thursday against new Department of Homeland Security policies that includes the expedited removal of undocumented migrants who cannot prove to an immigration officer they have lived in the United States for two continuous years.

"This action is yet another escalation of this Administration's enforcement-only immigration approach, and it will have terrible human consequences," Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin, Texas, Chair of the of the US bishops' migration committee, said in a July 25 statement.

The DHS said in a July 19 notice that the new policy is meant to harmonize existing policies that treated migrants arriving by land and by sea differently. Expedited removal has existed in US immigration law since 1996.

Previously, the DHS could designate illegal aliens for expedited removal "within 100 air miles of the border and within 14 days of their date of entry regardless of the alien's method of arrival." The new policy allows DHS to expedite the removal of any undocumented immigrant anywhere in the United States, provided they are unable to prove they have been in the country less than two years.

The bishops called the new policy "unjust" and said it will stoke "fear in our communities."

"The new policy will allow for the deportation of many more individuals without providing them an opportunity to seek legal counsel and have a hearing before an immigration judge," he argued.

The DHS notice stated that undocumented immigrants can apply for asylum when they are apprehended, potentially delaying an immediate deportation until a credible-fear hearing and a determination is made, NPR reports.

"Even those migrants who have long-standing ties to the U.S. and have been in the country for more than the requisite two years required under the new policy may now be subjected to expedited removal if they are unable to prove such to the satisfaction of an individual immigration officer," the bishop said.

The DHS is seeking public comment on the new policy.

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