A report issued by the National Immigration Law Center has found that 160,000 immigrants have been deported without ever facing a judge over the course of seven years. The report reveals that the U.S. has used something called “stipulated removal” to coerce immigrants into signing away their due process rights. The research for this report was made through the request of documents using the Freedom of Information Act and found that in these cases Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) 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. Among other things, it was found that 96% of those who fell victim to this coercion did not have lawyers to counsel them. Jayashri Srikantian, one of the study’s authors and a professor of law at Stanford noted, “There are people who have been diverted from the normal process. They are deprived of the only chance they have to fight their deportation.” While it is by no means wrong for an immigrant to want to bypass the arduous ordeal of appearing before a judge, they can only be removed if they sign the waiver “knowingly, voluntarily and intelligently.” However, according to Ms. Srikantiah, their review of documents found 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. This is obviously no way to run a proper and respectable system; in fact, the program violates the statute under which it operates. In one court case, Ms. Srikantiah said, a translator was asked to listen to one ICE agent explain the program to a detainee in Spanish and the translator said it was unintelligible. One of the most damning things Ms. Srikantiah said they found is that some immigration judges refuse to sign stipulated removal papers, saying they cant be sure by just looking at a paper whether it was signed “knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently.” In these cases, documents show that ICE just circumvents the judge by taking the case to another. Surely there is no need to be reminded that once one is deported from the United States, it is nearly impossible to find a legal avenue to return to the country; thus, one should not take this option lightly. By appearing before a judge one is reaffirming his due process rights and seeking to validate his right of remaining in the U.S. The conduct exhibited by ICE agents through this report is deplorable. We hope officials will work to redress this wrong and prevent it from occurring once again.
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