WASHINGTON – A federal judge has blocked the Trump administration’s plan to expand a procedure to speed up deportations for some undocumented immigrants.
The policy shift, announced in July, casts a wider net over undocumented immigrants subject to the fast-track deportation procedure known as “expedited removal,” which allows immigration authorities to remove an individual without a hearing before an immigration judge. In doing so, the administration would be provided greater latitude in quickly deporting undocumented immigrants.
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson in the US District Court in the District of Columbia took issue with the administration’s decision-making process that led to the change.
“Government actors who make policy decisions in their official capacities cannot succumb to whims or passions while rulemaking; instead, they must carefully evaluate all of the relevant facts and circumstances and take into account the feedback they have to solicit and receive from interested members of the public,” Jackson wrote in her ruling.
“Put in common parlance, if a policy decision that an agency makes is of sufficient consequence that it qualifies as an agency rule, then arbitrariness in deciding the contours of that rule — e.g., decision making by Ouija board or dart board, rock/paper/scissors, or even the Magic 8 Ball — simply will not do,” she added. Jackson halted the change while court proceedings continue.
The Department of Justice weighed in, saying that “Congress expressly authorized the Secretary of Homeland Security to act with dispatch to remove from the country (undocumented immigrants) who have no right to be here.”
The district court’s decision, a DOJ spokesman said in a statement, “squarely conflicts with that express grant of authority and vastly exceeds the district court’s own authority. This ruling undermines the laws enacted by Congress and the Trump Administration’s careful efforts to implement those laws.”
The White House blasted the ruling and the judge who issued it in a statement on Saturday.
“Once again, a single district judge has suspended application of Federal law nationwide—removing whole classes of illegal aliens from legal accountability,” according to a statement released by the White House press secretary. “For two and a half years, the Trump Administration has been trying to restore enforcement of the immigration laws passed by Congress. And for two and a half years, misguided lower court decisions have been preventing those laws from ever being enforced—at immense cost to the whole country.”
Previously, undocumented immigrants who were caught within 100 miles of a land border and within 14 days of arrival were subject to the procedure. The rule would change that to include undocumented immigrants anywhere in the US who cannot prove they’ve lived in the US continuously for two years or more.
Acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Matt Albence said this week that while officers had been trained to execute on the change, it had not yet been implemented.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which argued the case, celebrated the judge’s ruling. “The court rejected the Trump administration’s illegal attempt to remove hundreds of thousands of people from the U.S. without any legal recourse,” said ACLU attorney Anand Balakrishnan. “This ruling recognizes the irreparable harm of this policy.”
In their complaint, Make the Road New York, an immigrant advocacy group, along with other groups, raised concerns that expanding the fast-track procedure might “erroneously” apply to some immigrants because it falls on the individual to prove their time residing in the US.
Friday’s ruling came on the heels of another court’s decision to block the Trump administration’s proposal to detain undocumented families indefinitely.