If you had to prove that you’d lived in the United States for the past two years, could you do it?
As I look through my wallet, I see a few things with dates on them. Old crumpled up grocery receipts from a few months ago. My driver’s license. Of all things, it’s my Costco card, issued in May 2017 with a grainy picture of me on the back, that makes me sigh with relief.
In the days after the earthquake that was the 2016 presidential election, longtime immigration attorney Hans Meyer and I worried that ICE would grant itself expanded deportation power. Well, it took them two and a half years, but here we are. Dark days are ahead.
Overnight, a new Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) policy that will dramatically increase the speed of deportations for certain immigrants goes into effect. A just-published Federal Register notice expands the categories of individuals eligible for what is known as expedited removal, a fast-track deportation process that does not require judicial review.
Prior ICE policy said immigration agents could use expedited removal when they encountered individuals within 100 miles of the border who could not prove they had been physically present in the U.S. for at least 14 days. The new policy, now in effect, says that if ICE encounters an individual anywhere in the U.S. who cannot prove that they have been physically present in the country for at least two years, the ICE officer has the unilateral power to detain and deport that individual — without a hearing before an immigration judge.
The new ICE policy destroys what little due process remains for immigrants. Under this new rule, immigrants could be denied a hearing in court even if they have relief from deportation, and the burden will be on the immigrant to prove they have lived in this country for more than two years.
For these reasons, the Meyer Law Office implores non-citizens to update their emergency preparedness plans, and encourages immigrants to carry documentation with them — for example, a Colorado driver’s license, a library card, or car insurance cards or registration — that demonstrates their physical presence for the prior two years. If arrested by ICE agents, we urge immigrants to request to speak to an attorney immediately and decline to sign any documents.
Hans warns, “ICE agents now have the power to act like thugs and disappear people who don’t have the right papers on them, and the burden will be on us to prove our right to have a day in court. I’ve represented immigrants with expedited removal orders, which is the profoundly disturbing legal equivalent of being blindfolded and gagged, with your hands tied behind your back. For immigration lawyers and immigrant rights organizations today, it is critically important that we advise our clients and our community to protect themselves and their families.”
Given this huge expansion of ICE power, it is imperative that immigrants and their families take three proactive steps. First, know your rights in case of contact with ICE agents, and be sure to carry documentation with you that demonstrates physical presence in the United States for at least two years. Steer clear of documents that might list a foreign place of birth — ICE will definitely use any information it can against you. Second, make an emergency plan with your family in case your loved one is detained by ICE, and keep those documents in a trusted and secure place. Third, if you have questions about your individual case, find a trusted attorney now and get those questions answered.
When I’m not the policy director here at the Meyer Law Office, I serve as a state senator for north, west, and downtown Denver. I learned a lot in my first legislative session, and the biggest lesson has been that while words are nice, policies are better.
Yesterday, four Colorado Congressional Democrats — Reps. Diana DeGette, Jason Crow, Ed Perlmutter and Joe Neguse — visited the for-profit GEO immigration detention center in Aurora. They did so precisely as ICE gave itself more power to detain and deport immigrants without a court hearing. To my own Congresswoman, Diana DeGette, I thank you for taking the tour. It’s an important step to ensure accountability at GEO. Now, prove to us that your tour wasn’t just a one-off photo op. Introduce legislation to limit ICE’s expedited removal authority and protect due process. Otherwise, I could very much imagine a world in which, if I didn’t have my Costco card and crumpled up grocery receipts with me, I could end up sitting in the GEO detention center fighting deportation.
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