Lawsuit Seeks Clarity on How Immigrants Serving Time Are Deported From The United States

July 19, 2019

WASHINGTON—The American Immigration Council, American Immigration Lawyers Association, and Immigrant Defense Project filed a lawsuit Wednesday in federal court to compel the government to release records and data about the Department of Justice’s Institutional Hearing Program, an obscure program that expedites the deportation of immigrants who are serving time for criminal offenses. The lawsuit seeks to understand how the IHP operates, where it operates, and who it targets.

The Trump administration’s announcement that it would expand the program, which operates largely shielded from public scrutiny, raises serious due process concerns. The IHP targets a vulnerable population, including individuals who are indigent and who grapple with mental incompetency, that lacks access to counsel and yet must raise complex legal claims to defend against unlawful deportation.

The DOJ's Executive Office for Immigration Review—which runs the program jointly with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Bureau of Prisons—has failed to disclose critical information about how the IHP is implemented and what legal protections and guarantees are available to those facing deportation while incarcerated.

The lawsuit, filed in the Southern District of New York, challenges EOIR’s failure to disclose information—in response to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted in April—about its policies and practices regarding the program’s expansion, what individuals are targeted for IHP proceedings, whether these individuals are represented by a lawyer, whether they apply for relief from deportation and if so, what kind of relief and the outcome, and whether EOIR evaluates any of those immigrants for mental competency.

“The immigration consequences of criminal convictions are harsh and implicate complex legal questions. The need to obtain information about how this program is implemented has never been more urgent. A program that focuses on expediency and is shrouded in secrecy undermines the principles embedded in the bedrock of our justice system, which hold that all individuals must receive a meaningful opportunity to be heard,” said Emma Winger, staff attorney at the American Immigration Council.

“The government’s lack of transparency is troubling because it hinders the ability of the public, advocates, and policymakers to assess whether immigrants targeted for deportation under the IHP receive full and fair proceedings before an immigration judge,” said Laura Lynch, senior policy counsel at the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

A copy of the complaint is here.

An overview of the Institutional Hearing Program is here.


For more information, contact the American Immigration Council:

Maria Frausto at [email protected] or 202-507-7526.

Media Contact

Elyssa Pachico
[email protected]

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