The Trump administration announced Tuesday new measures to expand its immigration crackdown by permitting more summary deportations of undocumented migrants.
The new rules allow immigration officials to pick up any undocumented immigrant anywhere in the country and, if the immigrant has been inside the United States less than two years, the officers can decide themselves to have the person deported, rather than have the case decided by an immigration judge.
Formerly officers of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agencies could arrest and summarily deport a migrant only if they were detained within 100 miles (160 kilometers) of the U.S. border and were inside the country less than two weeks.
Cases for more detainees not meeting those parameters would have to be processed in an immigration court.
The new rule could accelerate deportations from the estimated 10.5 million undocumented migrants living in the United States, almost two-thirds of them for more than 10 years, according to the Pew Research Center.
Though Trump claims the U.S. faces an “invasion” and has framed the state of affairs as a “crisis,” undocumented immigration has actually declined significantly over the last decade.
In 2007, Pew Research estimated there were more than 12 million undocumented people living in the country.
“The new designation will enable DHS to address more effectively and efficiently the large volume of aliens who are present in the United States unlawfully,” said a Department of Homeland Security notice published in the Federal Register
The Trump administration has been frustrated by the backlog at immigration courts which it says allows detainees to disappear back into the population before their case is heard.
Studies, however, show that about nine in 10 migrants seeking asylum appear in court to see their cases heard.
There are currently nearly one million pending immigration cases in total.
Last week, the administration also announced a proposal aimed at making it more difficult for migrants from Central America’s Northern Triangle – hard hit by severe poverty and violence – to apply for asylum in the U.S.