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Fifth Circuit Rules that Expedited Removal Applies to All Aliens

In a decision issued last week, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that expedited removal under INA 238 applies to all aliens. INA 238 allows the expedited removal of any alien who is confined in a correctional institution and convicted of an aggravated felony. Under the statute the Department of Homeland Security must issue a Notice of Intent to proceed through expedited proceedings. The alien may apply for Withholding of Removal under the Torture Convention if he has a fear of returning to his country.

Valdiviez-Hernandez was under investigation for allegedly using someone else’s identity and social security number. ICE found a firearm in his house for which he was convicted as an illegal alien in possession of a firearm. The Service initiated expedited removal proceedings and he refused to sign the Notice. He also failed to respond to the allegations. The immigration judge denied his request for Withholding of Removal and he appealed. He argued that he was not subject to expedited removal since he was not admitted to the United States since he entered the United States illegally. The court rejected this argument and followed other circuits ruling that nothing in the statute limits these proceedings to lawfully admitted aliens. The court thus denied the petition for review and upheld the removal order.

The argument that Valdiviez-Hernandez was not subject to expedited removal because he was not admitted was doomed from the beginning since the statute clearly expands these proceedings to legal and illegal aliens. The better argument would have been a challenge to the procedure on Due Process grounds. I will follow this case to see if Valdiviez-Hernandez files a petition for rehearing en banc.

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