DHS Modifies Border and Visitor Policies
By Betsy Cooper and Deborah Meyers
September 1, 2004
DHS Expands Expedited Removal Effort
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson on August 10 announced
the expansion of the expedited removal program, which allows inspectors to deport
unauthorized aliens without a hearing before an immigration judge. The program,
which was first authorized by the Illegal Immigration and Reform Responsibility Act
of 1996, originally applied to aliens at airports. It was expanded to cover seaports
in November 2002, and will now go beyond official ports-of-entry to include aliens caught
within 100 miles of the Mexican and Canadian borders who have spent less than 14 days in
the United States.
Critics have expressed concern about this expanded role for the Border Patrol and the
subsequently planned agent training, fearing that the new policy lacks adequate protections
for people fleeing persecution. Supporters laud the expansion of law enforcement authority
at the border, claiming that it will prevent the release of persons who cannot be detained
due to lack of facility space. According to DHS, 90 percent of unauthorized people released
fail to appear for their appointed court date with an immigration judge.
Biometric Passports Delayed, Biometric Exit Program to Expand
President George W. Bush has signed legislation extending the deadline by which nationals of
Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries must provide biometric passports upon entering the United
States. The new deadline is October 25, 2005, which is also the date by which US ports-of-entry
must have the equipment to read such passports. Secretary of State Colin Powell and Homeland
Security Secretary Tom Ridge had requested a two-year extension in order to resolve technical
problems with the program, as well as to deal with privacy questions. There were also concerns
that the 27 VWP countries, whose citizens are granted visa-free entry into the US for up to 90
days, would not be able to meet the tight biometric passport requirements. In response,
Representative James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis) sponsored legislation agreeing to a one-year
extension. To enhance security in the interim, nationals of VWP countries will be subject
to the US-VISIT program as of September 30, 2004. (For more information about US-VISIT, see the
January 2004 Policy Beat.)
In addition, by September 2004, automated exit procedures will be expanded from pilot programs
at the Baltimore-Washington International and Miami airports to 12 additional cities. These
programs will require foreign visitors to check out either at automated kiosks or with US-VISIT
DHS Extends Stays for Mexican Border Cardholders
In a move expected to facilitate cross-border trade and tourism, Department of Homeland
Security (DHS) Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson on August 10 announced that holders of US-issued
border crossing cards would be allowed to stay in the United States for up to 30 days at a time,
rather than the 72 hours now permitted. Cardholders, who undergo a security check and must have
their biometric fingerprints and photographs on record, are allowed to travel within 25 miles of
the US-Mexican border, except in Arizona, where they can travel within 75 miles of the border.
In contrast, Canadian visitors are allowed to stay for six months, and many do not need visas.
The extension will affect Mexican nationals and US residents in border communities.
USCIS Changes Work Permit Rules
US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that it will issue employment
authorization documents (EADs) for a time period that more closely reflects the amount of time
for which they are needed, rather than a standard 12 months with a requirement for annual renewal.
The new EADs, which should be available as early as October, are expected to lighten the
bureaucratic burden on legitimate work permit holders, reduce confusion among employers, and
reduce unnecessary additions to the USCIS workload and processing backlogs. The USCIS, a part
of the Department of Homeland Security, announced the change in a notice in the July 30 Federal
Montserratians Lose Temporary Protected Status
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on July 6 terminated the temporary protected status
(TPS) of 292 Montserratians who have resided in the United States since a 1997 eruption destroyed
much of their Eastern Caribbean island. The Montserratians must leave the United States by
February 27, 2005, or face deportation. The revocation of TPS status represents a departure
from the past because the justification notice recognizes that the danger has not ceased in
Montserrat. Because the situation is not likely to improve in the foreseeable future, it can
no longer be considered "temporary." The volcano continues to erupt and the southern half of
the island, one of Great Britain's remaining overseas territories, remains uninhabitable.
TPS is designed for foreign nationals residing in the United States whose nations are facing
or recuperating from devastating natural disasters, internal conflict, or other exceptional
conditions. It allows those who qualify and register legal permission to stay in the United
States for a designated time period. Holders of that status also are granted work authorization,
but do not receive government assistance or permanent residence.
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