U.S. government to expedite removals near Canadian border

Posted by admin on Jan 30th, 2006

U.S. government to expedite removals near Canadian border. Devlin Barrett, Canadian Press

WASHINGTON (AP) – U.S. government agents say they will speed up the removal of illegal immigrants caught near the border with Canada, extending a program already in effect along the Mexican border. The practice called “expedited removal” speeds up the pace of deportations and makes it less likely that illegal immigrants will slip into thecountry because immigrant detention centres lack bunk space. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff called the program part of a countrywide effort to “implement new tactics throughout the U.S. in order to gain control of our borders.”

Expedited removal has already cut the average length of detentions along the southern border from 90 days to 19 days, said Dean Boyd, a spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, part of the Homeland Security Department. The faster deportations apply to those immigrants who have been in the United States less than 14 days and are either found within 160 kilometres of the northern border or caught trying to enter the United States with phony documents. Those seeking asylum will still be granted an interview with an asylum officer, authorities said.

President George W. Bush has increased pressure on Congress to embrace his plan for a guest worker program while talking tough about illegal immigration and a need for secure U.S. borders. The president’s goal is to stop more immigrants from crossing the border while increasing the number of temporary work visas for those who will take jobs that Americans are unwilling to fill.

Advocates for refugees said the expedited removal program, including what they call major flaws in the southern border version, should not be expanded north. “One of the biggest problems is that it lacks any meaningful safeguards, so that mistakes can and do happen,” said Eleanor Acer of Human Rights First, a New York-based group. Acer cited a recent study which found 15 per cent of those affected by the program “were not given a chance to get interviewed by an asylum officer, meaning they were shipped out before they could make their case. Immigration officials often have to decide whether to detain illegal immigrants for months or release them into the U.S. with a later court date. Critics say those decisions often depend not on the individuals but on the number of available beds at the nearest immigration detention centre.

Along the southern border, roughly 4,750 illegal immigrants have been removed more quickly since expedited removal went into effect four months ago. The northern border initiative will likely speed the removals of 400 to 500 illegal immigrants a year, said Boyd.

© The Canadian Press 2006

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