Connecticut took aim at the Trump administration again on Thursday, joining a multi-state lawsuit attempting to block a new policy that allows the deportation of certain immigrants without hearings before an immigration judge or other due process.
The policy, announced last month, allows the Department of Homeland Security, to expedite the deportation of undocumented immigrants anywhere in the United States who can not prove they’ve been in the country continuously for two years.
In an amicus brief before the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the attorneys general from the District of Columbia, Connecticut and 16 other states, led by California, have asked for a preliminary injunction to halt the implementation of the Trump administration rule.
“Denying due process to people facing deportation, including access to a lawyer and a hearing before a judge, flies in the face of everything this country stands for,” Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said. “We have already read reports around the country of citizens — including children — swept up in raids, detained for hours or days under threat of deportation.”
In 2004, the Obama administration extended the use of expedited removal to include any undocumented individual who was apprehended within 14 days of arrival in the United States by land and within 100 miles of a border – which meant that those living in Connecticut were not likely to be subjected to the policy.
But the Trump administration rule allows the process to be used on any undocumented immigrant anywhere in the United States and on those who have lived here for up to two years.
In announcing the policy change last month, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan cited the Immigration and Nationality Act, which the department argues gives the DHS secretary the power to decide who qualifies for expedited removal.
“We are past the breaking point and must take all appropriate action to enforce the law along the U.S. borders and within the country’s interior,” McAleenan said. “This designation makes it clear that if you have no legal right to be here, we will remove you.”
Filed in support of a legal challenge brought by several immigrant advocacy groups, the amicus brief says Connecticut and the other Democratic-led states involved “are home to hundreds of thousands of people who have come to this country because they fear persecution, torture, or violence in their countries of origin or to seek a better life for their families.”
The suit says those impacted by the new immigration policy are “welcome members of the community” and “face severe consequences if placed in expedited removal.”
“For some, the stakes are ‘life or death, since [they] face torture or worse upon returning to their home countries,’” the lawsuit says.
It also says the expedited removal process “is rife with potential for errors or abuse and has been misused to deport legitimate asylum seekers, longtime residents with family who are U.S. citizens, children, individuals with valid work and tourist visas, and others with significant ties or legal claims to be in the United States.”
In 2017, Connecticut had 525,813 immigrant residents, about 14.7 percent of the state population, who generated $14.5 billion in spending power and paid almost $6 billion in taxes annually, according to the lawsuit.
The legal basis for the suit is that the new policy would cause disruptions that would cost the states money, as children of deported parents are placed in foster care and families of deported breadwinners seek social services.
The lawsuit also said the rule violates federal agency procedure, with “ no advance notice and no opportunity for comment from affected individuals, organizations, States, or the public in general.”
There are some exceptions to expedited removal under the new rule. Unaccompanied minors won’t be subject to the new rule, and an immigrant facing expedited removal can still indicate they fear persecution if they return to their birth country, which will give them a chance to begin an asylum claim.
Still, Tong called the rule “cruel, unnecessary and unlawful.”
Tong is also weighing another legal challenge to Trump administration immigration policy.
DHS and the Department of Health and Human Services plan to issue a rule Friday to withdraw from the Flores Settlement Agreement, the federal consent decree that has set basic standards for the detention of migrant children and teenagers by the United States since 1997.
The settlement set a 20-day limit for the detention of minors in facilities that also house adults, and has been cited as the reason the Trump administration has separated thousands of children from their parents.
The new rule, which requires approval from a federal judge, would create a new policy that would make it easier for federal officials to expand family detention nationwide.
President Donald Trump said Wednesday that ending the Flores settlement, together with increased enforcement in Mexico and construction of a border wall, “all comes together like a beautiful puzzle.”
But Tong said “indefinite mass family detention is unacceptable as a matter of law and humanity.”
“This is settled law in the United States,” he said. “No child should be warehoused in these overcrowded and under-resourced border camps for any period of time, much less indefinitely. Kids are suffering and dying in these camps on our watch.”
Tong also said he is working “in close coordination with states across the country” and that Connecticut “is prepared to take action to protect the Flores settlement and the rights of children and families.”
Since assuming office at the beginning of the year, Tong has sued the Trump administration 32 times, usually in multi-state legal challenges with other Democratic attorneys general, on issues that include tax policy, immigration, and the environment.
Connecticut has also filed amicus briefs in another 46 lawsuits that challenge Trump administration policies. A few of those briefs were first filed under the administration of former Gov. Dan Malloy.