Texas Congressman Introduces Bill to Expedite Removal of Illegal Aliens and Alleviate Backlogged Immigration Courts
FAIR Take | December 2022
On December 8, Congressman Pat Fallon (R-TX) introduced H.R. 9470, the American Safety and Fairness Through Expedited Removal Act (American SAFER), to fast-track the removal of more illegal aliens from the United States. Expedited removal (ER) is an existing tool created by the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA), but it has only been used on a limited basis. Generally speaking, ER empowers Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to rapidly deport illegal aliens “without further hearing or review” if they are undocumented, overstayed their visa, or procured admission through fraud or misrepresentation, while allowing legitimate asylum claims. These violations are easy for CBP agents to spot without a lengthy review process in backlogged immigration courts. A claim by an alien subject to ER is a foregone conclusion: it will fail, and will clog the system and lengthen wait times for aliens with legitimate cases. In this light, expedited removal is essential.
However, a loophole in current law allows the government to apply ER on such a narrow scale as to render it almost meaningless. Congressman Fallon’s bill scraps an absurd federal regulation – promulgated in 2004 – limiting expedited removal to only those aliens apprehended within 100 air miles (about 115 “actual miles”) of a land border, within two weeks of entry. The bill requires all aliens who are undocumented, overstayed their visa, or obtained fraudulent entry to be placed in expedited removal – regardless of where they are apprehended – if they have been present in the U.S. fewer than two years. It also bars the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from limiting expedited removal through future regulations while empowering DHS to expand it on a discretionary basis, without going through the full rulemaking process. In other words, open-borders administrations like Biden’s would be stymied in their anti-enforcement agenda, and a future President that cares about enforcing immigration laws would be empowered to take more expansive action to reduce the illegal-alien population.
In an exclusive interview with FAIR, Congressman Fallon explained, “It’s a rung in a ladder to get to what we really want to do, which is secure the border, and if you come here illegally and law enforcement picks you up for any reason and it’s established you’re illegal, you should be removed…This administration doesn’t have the will to do that, but this is a good first step.” The bill, which revives a similar Trump-era effort that Biden suspended in October 2021, comes at a time when the U.S. is facing an unprecedented influx of migrants at the southern border set to get worse with the looming end of COVID-era Title 42 authorities, which empower the government to expel aliens without allowing asylum claims. By the Biden administration’s own admission, the lapse of this authority on December 21 could nearly double apprehensions at the southern border to a whopping 14,000 per day.
The immigration courts already have a backlog of nearly 2 million pending cases. When aliens receive a “Notice to Appear,” their initial court date is often three or four years in the future. Nearly half of aliens in removal proceedings fail to appear at their hearing, likely because they know their claim is bogus. Against this backdrop, the nation cannot support another massive influx of aliens into the immigration courts, especially when it’s inevitable a claim will be denied and the alien ordered removed. Expedited removal should be applied whenever and wherever possible, and Congressman Fallon’s bill is a step in the right direction. FAIR applauds him and the bill’s 17 original cosponsors – all Republicans – who recognize the severity of the present crisis. Not only would this bill address the unsustainable population of illegal aliens already here, which FAIR estimated at the end of 2021 was around 15.5 million, but it would also strongly disincentivize future illegal migrant flows. Therefore FAIR urges swift passage of the commonsense American SAFER Act.