Thousands Deported With No Court Hearing

A Chicago Reporter Investigation Reveals No "Due Process" For Many

AP Photo/LM Otero

Thousands of immigrants are being deported from Chicago and surrounding areas without any opportunity for a formal court hearing, according to a new investigation by The Chicago Reporter, a reporting partner of NBC5 Investigates.

In its May/June issue, The Reporter reveals that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency is increasingly using a strategy known as a “reinstatement” to deport undocumented workers who have reestablished themselves in the United States after a previous deportation.  The process, which can also take the form of an “administrative order,” an “expedited removal,” or a “voluntary return,” means that I.C.E. can bypass the normal process of sending someone back to their country of origin. 

As the Reporter’s Maria Ines Zamudio reports, a person who is being deported normally has the right to appear in immigration court for a hearing.  But when an undocumented person is detained for some reason – an arrest, for example – and then found to have a previous deportation order, that person is increasingly being sent away almost immediately, with no court hearing, even if he or she has long-established ties and family in the U.S.

“A way to think about it is very much like a police officer being able to arrest you, prosecute you, and judge you all in the same body,” says Linus Chan, an adjunct law professor at DePaul University and a clinical instructor at the school’s Asylum and Immigration Law Clinic.

Ricardo Wong, the director of enforcement and removal operations at I.C.E.’s Chicago field office, tells The Reporter that his agency reviews all deportation cases to decide whether they should be handled within the immigration court system, or through one of these types of expedited strategies.  He acknowledges that bypassing court proceedings can mean a quicker and cheaper deportation process, but he insists that those factors do not affect any decision about how deportations will be handled.

But everybody should be granted their day in a court – even if they are not U.S. citizens, according to Matthew Kuenning, an attorney who teaches immigration law at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  “There is a long line of Supreme Court cases dealing with [this issue],” he says.  “The conclusion is that due process applies in general to noncitizens [who] live in the country.”
There is much more analysis of this issue – including a year-by-year review of the rising tide of fast-track deportations, and a profile of one Chicago family where the father is in the midst of a quick and sudden deportation -- in The Chicago Reporter’s cover story, “Speedy Removal.”

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