Over the course of seven years, 160,000 immigrants have been deported without ever facing a judge, a new report reveals. Issued by the National Immigration Law Center, the report charges that the U.S. has used something called "stipulated removal" to strong arm immigrants into signing away their due process.
Essentially, the researchers requested documents using the Freedom of Information Act and found that in about 160,000 cases over the course of seven years, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents gave detainees a choice: Stay in detention for a long time while you wait to appear before a judge, or sign a paper that waives that right and gets you out of detention quicker through deportation.
"These are people who have been diverted from the normal process," said Jayashri Srikantiah, one of the study's authors and a professor of law at Stanford. "They are deprived of the only chance they have to fight their deportation."
96 percent of them, said Srikantiah, did not have lawyers.
Of course, the natural question is what's the big deal? These people are being removed because they voluntarily signed a paper.
Srikantiah said the law that rules these kinds of proceedings states that immigrants can be removed only if they sign the waiver "knowingly, voluntarily and intelligently."
Srikantiah said what their review of documents found was that ICE agents consistently gave detainees "poorly translated and even false information about their cases." She said agents were found to read scripts that were "derogatory" and did not inform those detained that they could fight their deportation and apply to be released on bond.
"That's absolutely no way to run a system," said Srikantiah.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NPR. But the AP reports that the agency defended the practice, saying " the program is voluntary and the paperwork for stipulated removal is signed by an immigration judge."
Srikantiah said the program violates the statute under which it operates. In one court case, Srikantiah said, a translator was asked to listen to one ICE agent explain the program to a detainee in Spanish. The translator said it was unintelligible.
One of the most damning things Srikantiah said they found is that some immigration judges refuse to sign stipulated removal papers, saying they can't be sure by just looking at a paper whether it was signed "knowingly, voluntarily and intelligently."
Srikantiah said in those cases, documents show that ICE just circumvents the judge by taking the case to another.