DHS to Initiate Expedited Removal Beyond Ports of Entry

In a teleconference today with non-governmental agencies (NGOs), BTS Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson announced that the Department of Homeland Security will use expedited removal not only at ports of entry, as is currently the case, but along the U.S. border between entry ports. Expedited removal will apply to those caught within 100 air miles of the northern or southern border, who have been in the U.S. 14 days or less.

Mr. Hutchinson indicated that this policy is "not intended for Mexicans and Canadians," but instead for third country nationals. However, when pressed, he did indicate that the policy could be used against such nationals, but would be "limited" to smugglers and "repeat offenders."

According to Mr. Hutchinson, no Border Patrol agent will be able to make a decision on expedited removal unless the agent has been through a "rigorous training program." Supervisory review was alluded to, but no details were provided on whether such review would be required. A working group at headquarters is being formed to provide oversight and "address unintended consequences."

Mr. Hutchinson emphasized that persons evincing credible fear of persecution or torture would be referred to USCIS for a credible fear interview, and that USCIS would be assigning additional officers for this purpose.

Initially, the program will be rolled out in the Laredo and Tucson sectors. Third country nationals will be detained or "removed as soon as circumstances allow." Mr. Hutchinson indicated that, in the past 16 months, some 42,000 third country nationals have been caught along the southern border. Of those, 26,000 were issued Notices to Appear (NTAs) instituting removal proceedings and, Mr. Hutchinson stated, 90% of those did not appear for their hearings.

A Federal Register notice is expected to be published in this regard on Wednesday, August 11, 2004, with an immediate effective date. However, Mr. Hutchinson indicated that the program will not be implemented until the applicable Border Patrol agents are fully trained.

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 04081061.