Immigrant-rights activists rushed to court in New York Thursday to ask a judge to head off President Trump’s plans for a new deportation sweep, asking that anyone ordered removed in absentia without a lawyer be granted an automatic new hearing.
The lawsuit was announced hours after news broke that the sweep, put off last month, is now looming as early as this weekend.
“We will not stand by and let the Trump administration arrest and deport thousands of Central American families and children without giving them a fair day in court,” said Judy London, a lawyer at Public Counsel, one of the activist groups.
The targets for removal are thousands of illegal immigrants who arrived as families over the last year or so, who were given speedy immigration court dates, but who didn’t show. They were ordered removed in absentia.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement then tried to schedule deportations but most of the migrants ignored those requests too, ICE says.
The immigrant-rights groups, though, say the process was flawed.
They said some of the notices were sent to the wrong addresses, of didn’t properly list the dates and times of the hearings. Other times the notices were sent too late, or asked the migrants to travel a distance, the activists said.
“Thousands of people in that group certainly failed to appear through no fault of their own, lack the ability to file a motion to reopen, and will face persecution or torture if returned to their home countries,” the lawsuit says.
The case is only the latest to challenge the government’s deportation powers.
Similar challenges have met with varying levels of success in ICE sweeps to target Iraqis, Indonesians, Somalis and other specific nationalities of migrant who had been generally low priorities for removal in previous administrations.
The new lawsuit asks for a reprieve for migrants dating back to 2014, saying the Obama administration began the process of “rocket dockets” that have denied migrants a full chance to make their case.
The lawsuit specifically called out former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, now a 2020 presidential hopeful, for his role in promoting the policy.
Things have only grown more chaotic Mr. Trump, the lawsuit says.
“For the last five years, immigration judges have issued in absentia removal orders for tens of thousands of unrepresented families and children who never had a fair opportunity to appear in court,” the lawyers argued.
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