Expansion of alien removal policy could create logistical headaches

A potential expansion of the government's power to detain and remove illegal immigrants without hearings or review raises numerous policy, resource and logistical questions, according to a new report from the Congressional Research Service.

Several lawmakers have recently expressed interest in broadening the use of expedited removal, which allows the government to immediately send home illegal aliens who lack proper documentation, or have committed fraud or willful misrepresentation of facts, without further hearings or review, unless the alien indicates a fear of persecution.

The government can use expedited removal against illegal aliens at ports of entry and those found within 100 miles of the Southwest border. The Homeland Security Department expanded the use of the procedure last month to include all border patrol sectors along the Southwest and Northern borders. Some say the authority should be applied to illegal aliens caught anywhere within the country, CRS noted in the report.

"There have been discussions about expanding expedited removal to include all groups authorized under statute," CRS stated. "Aliens who had illegally entered the United States and could not prove that they had been continuously present for more than two years would be detained and removed without hearings or review unless they claimed asylum."

"Whether the policy should be made mandatory and extended into the interior of the country is emerging as an issue," the report stated. "Expanding expedited removal raises a set of policy, resource and logistical questions."

Issues cited include: due process for illegal aliens, the protection of rights, cost and resources, and coordination between the Homeland Security Department's Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection bureaus.

"Proponents of expanding expedited removal point to the lengthy procedural delays and costs of the alien removal process," the report stated. "They argue that aliens who entered the country illegally should not be afforded the due process and appeals that those who entered legally are given under the law … Advocates for requiring mandatory expedited removal further maintain that it is an essential policy tool to handle the estimated 10.4 million unauthorized aliens in the United States as of 2004."

Opponents argue that an expansion would present "significant logistical problems," CRS added. "They cite increased costs caused by mandatory detention and the travel costs of repatriation. They also express concern that apprehended aliens will not be given ample opportunity to produce evidence that they are not subject to expedited removal."

The report did not draw any policy conclusions or make any recommendations.

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