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U.S. Seeks to Lift Curb on Deporting

November 18, 2005|Anna Gorman | Times Staff Writer

The Department of Justice filed a motion Thursday in federal court in Los Angeles to make it easier to deport Salvadorans who are in the United States illegally.

Government attorneys are requesting that the court end a 1988 injunction that required immigration authorities to advise detained Salvadorans fleeing a civil war of their right to apply for political asylum.

The government argues in the motion that the war in El Salvador has ended and that the situation no longer warrants "singling out Salvadorans for favored and unique immigration treatment." The motion also says the "concerns of INS abuse that gave rise to the injunction are no longer well-founded."

Salvadorans should be subject to "expedited removal," which allows the Department of Homeland Security to deport an illegal immigrant without a hearing before a judge unless the person demonstrates a credible fear of returning to his or her country, according to government officials. Ending the injunction could cut the deportation time for a Salvadoran immigrant from 90 days to 35, they added.

"Shortening the time to send someone back to their country is ideal," said U.S. Border Patrol spokesman Salvador Zamora. "That in itself will be a deterrent for illegal crossings."

From Oct. 1 to Tuesday, the Border Patrol arrested more than 6,600 illegal immigrants from El Salvador, second only to the number from Mexico, officials said.

The injunction in the class-action "Orantes" case was issued after Salvadoran refugees accused the former Immigration and Naturalization Service of using threats and coercion to discourage them from applying for asylum. When the case was filed, thousands of Salvadorans were streaming into the U.S. as a result of a bloody civil war that broke out in the Central American nation in 1979.

Immigrant rights groups say the injunction should remain in place.

"As it was when the Orantes case was heard and the decision was made that the immigrants had the right to be heard, I think that should still be the case," said Angela Sanbrano, executive director of the Central American Resource Center.

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