\ fr \ Federal Register Publications (CIS, ICE, CBP) \ Federal Register Publications (CIS, ICE, CBP) - 2005 \ FEDERAL REGISTER INTERIM REGULATIONS - 2005 \ Background and Security Investigations in Proceedings Before Immigration Judges and the Board of Immigration Appeals [70 FR 4743] [DHS 6-05] \ Voluntary Departure
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Section 240B of the Act (8 U.S.C. 1229c) authorizes DHS (prior to the initiation of removal proceedings) or an immigration judge (after the initiation of removal proceedings) to approve an alien's request to be granted the privilege of voluntary departure in lieu of being ordered removed from the United States. Although a grant of voluntary departure does not authorize an alien to remain indefinitely in the United States, it permits the alien to
remain in the United States until the expiration of the period of voluntary departure--generally, up to 120 days if voluntary departure is granted prior to the completion of immigration proceedings pursuant to 8 CFR 1240.26(b) and up to 60 days if granted at the conclusion of the proceedings before the immigration judge pursuant to 8 CFR 1240.26(c).
The identity, law enforcement, and security checks conducted by DHS are also relevant in connection with the granting of voluntary departure by an immigration judge, whether during the pendency of removal proceedings or at the completion of those proceedings. This is so because the results of the investigations may be relevant with respect to the exercise of discretion by the immigration judge in deciding whether or not to grant voluntary departure, and also in view of the requirement that an alien must dem
onstrate good moral character to obtain voluntary departure at the conclusion of removal proceedings. See 8 CFR 1240.26(c). A grant of voluntary departure is a valuable benefit because it allows an alien who departs the country within the allowable period to avoid the adverse future consequences under the immigration laws attributable to having been ordered removed.
On the other hand, the Department recognizes the importance of granting of voluntary departure in proper cases, whether voluntary departure is granted prior to the conclusion of immigration proceedings or in lieu of an order of removal, without causing unnecessary delays in the process. As a practical matter, the DHS background and security checks may be completed routinely in many cases in a timely manner, if DHS captures the alien's biometrics or other biographical information and initiates the necessary
investigations prior to or at the time of issuing and filing the NTA, but there will be some cases as noted above where completion of the background or security checks may require a significant additional period of time.
Accordingly, this rule does not propose to require the immigration judges to wait until being advised by DHS that it has completed the appropriate identity, law enforcement, and security investigations before the immigration judges can grant voluntary departure. However, the rule recognizes that DHS may affirmatively seek additional time to complete such investigations in some cases prior to the granting of voluntary departure, and allows the immigration judges to decide such requests for a continuance on a
This rule also makes an accommodation in the existing time limits with respect to the granting of voluntary departure prior to the conclusion of removal proceedings, where the alien makes a request for voluntary departure no later than the master calendar hearing at which the case is initially calendared for a merits hearing, as provided in 8 CFR 1240.26(b)(1)(i)(A). In such a case, where the DHS investigations have not yet been completed, the immigration judge may grant a continuance to await the results o
f DHS's investigations before granting voluntary departure. The granting of a continuance will thereby extend the 30-day period, as currently provided in § 1240.26(b)(1)(ii), for the immigration judge to grant a request for voluntary departure prior to the conclusion of removal proceedings.
In view of the distinct nature of custody redetermination hearings before the immigration judges, and the exigencies of time often associated with such hearings, this rule does not propose to apply the same procedures for custody hearings as for removal proceedings. See 8 CFR 1003.19(d) (custody and bond hearings separate and apart from removal proceedings).
Although some background or security investigations may require weeks or months to resolve certain sensitive or difficult issues, as noted above, the initial determinations relating to holding aliens in custody during the pendency of removal proceedings against them must be made on a more expedited basis. Under its existing regulations, DHS generally must make a decision on the continued detention of an alien within 48 hours of apprehending the alien, except in the case of an emergency or other extraordinar
y circumstances requiring additional time. 8 CFR 287.3(d). Thereafter, unless the alien is subject to detention pursuant to section 236(c) of the Act or other special circumstances, the alien can immediately request a hearing before an immigration judge to seek a redetermination of the conditions of custody, as provided in 8 CFR 1003.19.
The Supreme Court has repeatedly “recognized detention during deportation proceedings as a constitutionally valid aspect of the deportation process,” Demore v. Kim, 538 U.S. 510, 523 (2003), and has recognized that “Congress eliminated any presumption of release pending deportation, committing that determination to the discretion of the Attorney General.” Reno v. Flores, 507 U.S. 292, 306 (1993); see also Carlson v. Landon, 342 U.S. 524, 538-40 (1952). Under section 236 of the Act (8 U.S.C. 1226), an alien
has no right to be released from custody during the pendency of removal proceedings, and both DHS, in making custody decisions, and the Attorney General, the Board, and the immigration judges, in conducting reviews of custody determinations, have broad discretion in deciding whether or not an alien has made a sufficient showing to merit being released on bond or on personal recognizance pending the completion of removal proceedings.
As recognized by the Supreme Court, section 236(a) does not give detained aliens any right to release on bond. Rather, the statute merely gives the Attorney General the authority to grant bond if he concludes, in the exercise of broad discretion, that the alien's release on bond is warranted. The extensive discretion granted the Attorney General under the statute is confirmed by its further provision that “[t]he Attorney General's discretionary judgment regarding the application of this section shall not be
subject to review.” Section 236(e) of the INA. Even apart from that provision, the courts have consistently recognized that the Attorney General has extremely broad discretion in determining whether or not to release an alien on bond under this and like provisions. Further, the INA does not limit the discretionary factors that may be considered by the Attorney General in determining whether to detain an alien pending a decision on asylum or removal.
Matter of D-J-, 23 I&N Dec. 572, 575-76 (A.G. 2003) (citations omitted; emphasis in original).
The existing regulations provide that an immigration judge, in reviewing a custody determination by DHS, may consider any relevant information available to the immigration judge or any information presented by the alien or by DHS. 8 CFR 1003.19(d). There can be no doubt that the results of DHS's identity, law enforcement, and security investigations can be quite relevant with respect to a redetermination of custody conditions by the immigration judge for aliens detained in connection with immigration procee
dings. The custody decisions should be made on the basis of as complete a record as possible under the circumstances, but must be made promptly in light of applicable legal standards.
Accordingly, § 1003.47(k) of the rule provides that the immigration judges, in scheduling a custody redetermination hearing in response to an alien's request under 8 CFR 1003.19(b), should take into account, to the extent practicable consistent with the expedited nature of such cases, the brief initial period of time needed by DHS to conduct the automated portions of its identity, law enforcement, and security checks prior to a custody redetermination by an immigration judge.
This rule contemplates that DHS may have an opportunity to present at least the results of automated checks, to the extent practicable, but does not require the immigration judges to wait until being advised by DHS that it has completed all appropriate identity, law enforcement, and security investigations before the immigration judges can order an alien released on bond or personal recognizance. However, the rule specifically provides that DHS may affirmatively request that the immigration judge allow addi
tional time to complete such investigations in particular cases prior to the issuance of a custody decision, and the immigration judge will decide such requests for a continuance on a case-by-case basis.
Allowing a brief initial period of time for DHS to complete the automated portions of its background and security checks, and providing a process for DHS to request additional time in particular cases to resolve issues in those investigations, is sound public policy in order to ensure that the immigration judges' decisions are based on as complete a record as possible under the circumstances. Moreover, this approach may also be expected to reduce the number of instances in which an immigration judge's custo
dy decision is subject to an automatic stay pending appeal to the Board--i.e., in those cases where DHS as a matter of discretion chooses to invoke the provisions of 8 CFR 1003.19(i)(2) because of concerns relating to the unresolved identity, law enforcement, or security investigations.
Under this rule, though, there will be cases where the immigration judge may issue a custody decision without waiting for DHS to complete all portions of its identity, law enforcement, or security checks, particularly where there is some delay in completing those investigations. In any case (whether through the background and security checks or otherwise) where DHS subsequently discovers information reflecting a clear change of circumstances with regard to the reasons for detaining an individual during the
pendency of the removal proceedings, the Department notes that DHS is free to decide to cancel the alien's bond and take the alien back into custody under section 236 of the Act, under established procedures. See 8 CFR 236.1(c)(9), 1236.1(c)(9); Matter of Sugay, 17 I&N Dec. 637, 639 (BIA 1981) (finding “without merit [the alien's] counsel's argument that the District Director was without authority to revoke bond once an alien has had a bond redetermination hearing” before an immigration judge); see also Mat
ter of Valles-Perez, 21 I&N Dec. 769, 772 (BIA 1997) (“the regulations presently provide that when an alien has been released following a bond proceeding, a district director has continuing authority to revoke or revise the bond, regardless of whether the Immigration Judge or this Board has rendered a bond decision.”). An alien whose bond has been revoked after previously being ordered released by an immigration judge can then seek a new custody determination. See Ortega de los Angeles v. Ridge, No. CV 04-0
551-PHX-JAT (JI) (D. Ariz. Apr. 27, 2004).
Consistent with the district court's accurate interpretation of the existing regulatory language in Ortega, this rule also revises § 1003.19(e) to clarify this provision and codify the Department's interpretation that it only relates to subsequent requests for bond redeterminations made by the alien.
Good Cause Exception
The Department has determined that good cause exists under 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) and (d)(3) to make this rule effective April 1, 2005, for several reasons. Protecting national security and public safety has long been a focus of U.S. immigration law. Applicants for immigration benefits are always subject to some form of law enforcement check to assess their eligibility for the benefits or determine their inadmissibility to, or removability from, the United States. The September 11, 2001, attack and the 9/11 Com
mission's report, however, have highlighted the urgent need for immediate reforms to certain immigration processes, including the process by which the Department, DHS, and other law enforcement agencies initiate, vet, and resolve law enforcement checks.
Both the Department and DHS have expanded the number and types of law enforcement checks conducted on aliens seeking immigration benefits. However, vulnerability exists in the manner in which immigration benefits are given, particularly when an immigration status is granted or document is issued prior to completion of the required law enforcement checks or investigations by DHS, the Department, or other law enforcement agencies. The 9/11 Commission highlighted many of the dangers posed by terrorists, includ
ing their mobility, and recommended improved immigration controls that would ensure, among other things, that terrorists cannot obtain travel documents. Certain immigration statuses granted by DHS and the Department and certain documents issued by USCIS authorize aliens not only to work in the United States but also to travel freely to and from the United States. Issuance of this interim rule will enable DOJ and DHS to detect aliens who may pose a threat to the United States before they would otherwise be g
ranted relief from removal that would permit them to continue residing in the United States and to obtain documents from DHS that permit them to board planes and other vessels or work in jobs in the U.S. that could facilitate their plans to commit terrorist acts. In addition, possession of an employment authorization document demonstrates that an alien's presence in the U.S. is “under color of law,” which not only can facilitate travel within the U.S., but also can cause a law enforcement officer or securit
y official (public or private) not to follow up on an encounter with the individual.
The significance of completing law enforcement checks prior to the granting of applications for relief from removal by EOIR adjudicators or issuance of immigration documents by DHS cannot be overestimated. DHS reports that through the law enforcement check process it has discovered that certain applicants were: (1) Attempting to procure missile technology for a foreign government with terrorist ties; (2) previously deported for attempted drug smuggling; (3) serving as an executive officer of a designated fo
reign terrorist organization; (4) subject to outstanding warrants for rape and other aggravated felonies; and (5) escaped prisoners from Canada and other countries who were subject to extradition. If the Department had granted an application for relief from removal, such as lawful permanent resident status, without being apprised of results from law enforcement checks or investigations, it is likely that individuals such as these would have gained the freedom to move throughout the United States (and possib
ly travel internationally) and to further any criminal efforts or terrorist activities that could affect America's safety and threaten national security.
Congress has provided DHS and the Department with authority in certain instances to rescind, revoke, or terminate an immigration status that was illegally procured or procured by concealment of a material fact or by willful misrepresentation. See, e.g. sections 205, 246, and 340 of the Act (8 U.S.C. 1155, 1256, and 1451). However, the process for rescission, revocation, or termination of an immigration status or document in many instances can be prolonged for several months or years, particularly in those c
ases requiring judicial review. Even when DHS places aliens in removal or rescission proceedings or seeks to terminate or revoke an immigration status previously granted, the aliens in most instances retain their immigration status, even if granted in error, while such proceedings are ongoing and until concluded. As a result, the potential for harm increases the longer an alien retains an immigration status or document that he or she is not lawfully entitled to or should not have been issued in the first in
stance. Therefore, it is imperative that DHS run background checks before applications for immigration relief or protection from removal are granted or immigration documents are issued.
While we expect that public comments may help the Department to improve its process, the urgency of putting a better system in place outweighs the opportunity for notice and comment before any improvement is made. Accordingly, the Department finds that it would be impracticable and contrary to the public interest to delay implementation of this rule to allow the prior notice and comment period normally required under 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) and (d)(3). The Department nevertheless invites written comments on this
interim rule and will consider any timely comments in preparing the final rule.
Regulatory Flexibility Act
The Attorney General, in accordance with the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 605(b)), has reviewed this regulation and, by approving it, certifies that this rule will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. It does not have any impact on small entities as that term is defined in 5 U.S.C. 601(6).
Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995
This rule will not result in the expenditure by State, local, and tribal governments, in the aggregate, or by the private sector, of $100 million or more in any one year, and it will not significantly or uniquely affect small governments. Therefore, no actions were deemed necessary under the provisions of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995.
Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996
This rule is not a major rule as defined by section 251 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Act of 1996, 5 U.S.C. 804. This rule will not result in an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more; a major increase in costs or prices; or significant adverse effects on competition, employment, investment, productivity, innovation, or on the ability of United States-based companies to compete with foreign-based companies in domestic and export markets.
Executive Order 12866
This rule is considered by the Department of Justice to be a “significant regulatory action” under Executive Order 12866, section 3(f), Regulatory Planning and Review. Accordingly, this rule has been submitted to the Office of Management and Budget for review.
Executive Order 13132
This rule will not have substantial direct effects on the States, on the relationship between the National Government and the States, or on the distribution of power and responsibilities among the various levels of government. Therefore, in accordance with section 6 of Executive Order 13132, it is determined that this rule does not have sufficient federalism implications to warrant the preparation of a federalism summary impact statement.
Executive Order 12988, Civil Justice Reform
This rule meets the applicable standards set forth in sections 3(a) and 3(b)(2) of Executive Order 12988.
Paperwork Reduction Act
Under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, Public Law 104-13, all Departments are required to submit to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review and approval, any reporting requirements inherent in a final rule. This rule does not impose any new reporting or recordkeeping requirements under the Paperwork Reduction Act.
List of Subjects
8 CFR Part 1003
Administrative practice and procedure, Aliens, Immigration, Legal services, Organization and function (Government agencies).
8 CFR Part 1208
Administrative practice and procedure, Aliens, Immigration, Organization and function (Government agencies).
Accordingly, chapter V of title 8 of the Code of Federal Regulations is amended as follows: