Immigration

Suspected Illegal Immigrants Deported Without Getting Their Day in Court

Due process is a vitally important tenet of liberal democracy.
More immigrants than ever are signing away their rights to a day in court before they are deported. But do they understand what they are doing?

The National Immigrant Justice Center recently received more than 80,000 records from the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) profiling the U.S. government's use of stipulated orders of removal since 1997. Stipulated orders are deportation orders that immigration officers ask detainees to sign to agree to be deported without taking their case before an immigration judge.

NIJC and other immigration legal aid providers have long suspected, based on stories that our clients tell us, that immigration officers frequently pressure detainees into signing these deportation orders and often do not translate them properly. We have heard numerous stories about the orders being used following raids, when detained workers are too frightened to question what the papers mean. Many immigrants sign the orders without fully understanding the consequences, which include a 10-year bar from reentering the United States.

The data NIJC received from EOIR backs up our concerns: 94 percent of the immigrants who have signed stipulated removal orders since 1997 were Spanish-speaking. Furthermore, 85 percent had no criminal charges.

And since 2004, the number of stipulated orders signed each year has steadily increased.

A full summary of the data NIJC received through its Freedom of Information Act request is available here. But first, watch this video interview with a former detainee who intervened when he realized another detained man was about to unknowingly sign away his due process rights:

Tara Tidwell Cullen is the communications manager for the National Immigrant Justice Center, a partner of the Heartland Alliance for Human Needs and Human Rights.