The Resurrection of Expedited Removal: Biden Administration Reverting to and Expanding Anti-Immigration Tactics

By Chloe Lowell, Human Rights First Intern


President Biden campaigned on a promise to reverse inhumane asylum policies, create fair processes, and welcome refugees fleeing persecution. Yet his continued use of expedited removal—a tool from an anti-immigration arsenal—signals that President Biden is comfortable with an agenda that deports migrants to imminent danger.

On July 26th, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) revived fast-track deportations for migrants under the guise of order and safety. Just weeks later, DHS further weakened due process protections and expanded expedited removal. While these proposed rules did have several positive aspects, the Biden administration reforms are still premised on the use of an inherently flawed expedited removal system that results in persecution and torture. The resurrection and expansion of expedited removal is only the latest development in a series of federal decisions that fail to protect asylum-seekers.

Although DHS rightfully terminated the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) in June, a policy that forces migrants and refugees to wait in danger in Mexico for their U.S. immigration court hearings, the agency has been imperiling vulnerable individuals through its endorsement and extension of the Title 42 policy since President Biden took office. The Supreme Court’s denial of a stay of a district court’s order requiring the government to restart MPP now risks further cementing a system that facilitates violence against migrants.

The expedited removal process is both ineffective and deeply flawed. Traumatized asylum-seekers are forced to speak in credible fear interviews—their single chance to make a convincing plea for protection—while being held in crowded detention facilities known for abuse and often without access to legal counsel. Under the Trump Administration, a vast majority of interviewees were denied fear claims and expelled to danger. An environment of armed officers can revive trauma for those escaping government persecution and hinder their ability to articulate a clear claim to asylum. Black and Indigenous migrants often fare worse—many African and Indigenous languages are not provided by translators, leaving them to undergo interviews in an unfamiliar language. Rather than a legitimate path to refuge, such expedited credible fear interviews have become tools for quick deportations.

The Biden White House claims that these proceedings are a “lawful means” to facilitate a “safe and orderly immigration processing.” In reality, expedited removal circumvents due process and risks returning refugees to danger and persecution. Asylum seekers have been killed or raped after being wrongly found not to have a credible fear within the flawed expedited removal process and deported to danger.

President Biden’s call for orderliness is negated by the inefficiency of expedited removal: fast-track deportations only exacerbate the backlog of pending asylum applications. Asylum officers are regularly reassigned from adjudicating asylum applications to conducting credible fear interviews at the border, inhibiting effective processing. Barring a logical explanation, expedited removal only stands as a policy that will be directly responsible for violence and death.

This move marks a particularly egregious breach of President Biden’s campaign trail promises; deporting refugees to persecution and torture is an explicit breach of international law. But it’s also emblematic of how the administration has treated asylum-seekers since January. Vice President Harris explicitly instructed asylum-seekers to remain in danger, few separated families have been reunited, and Title 42 remains in place despite widespread outcry.

Expedited removal is neither humane nor legal. The Biden administration cannot actively weaponize aggressive anti-immigration tactics—circumventing domestic and international law—while claiming to defend human rights.

President Biden and his DHS run an immigration system that facilitates attacks against asylum-seekers. This administration can begin to unravel it and keep its promises on refugee protection by immediately halting the use of expedited removal and ensuring refugees have both due process and dignity.


Published on September 8, 2021


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