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Notice

Eliminating Exception To Expedited Removal Authority for Cuban Nationals Encountered in the United States or Arriving by Sea

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AGENCY:

Office of the Secretary, Department of Homeland Security.

ACTION:

Notice.

SUMMARY:

This notice concerns the authority of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS or the Department) to place certain designated categories of aliens in expedited removal proceedings. On November 13, 2002, the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) of the Department of Justice issued a notice designating certain aliens who arrive by sea, either by boat or other means, as eligible for placement in expedited removal proceedings, with an exception for Cuban citizens or nationals (hereinafter “Cuban nationals”). On August 11, 2004, DHS issued a notice designating certain aliens in the United States as eligible for placement in expedited removal proceedings, also with an exception for Cuban nationals. In light of recent changes in the relationship between the United States and Cuba, the Department has determined that the exceptions for Cuban nationals, contained in the designations of November 13, 2002 and August 11, 2004, are no longer warranted and are thus hereby eliminated. The rest of the November 13, 2002 and August 11, 2004 designations, including any implementing policies, are unaffected by this notice and remain unchanged.

DATE:

This notice is effective on January 13, 2017. Interested persons are invited to submit written comments on this notice on or before March 20, 2017.

ADDRESSES:

You may submit comments, identified by DHS Docket Number DHS-2017-0004, by any one of the following methods:Start Printed Page 4903

  • Federal e-Rulemaking Portal www.regulations.gov. Follow the Web site instructions for submitting comments.
  • Mail or Hand Delivery/Courier: Please submit all written comments (including and CD-ROM submissions) to Amanda Baran, Principal Director for Immigration Policy, DHS, 245 Murray Lane SW., Mail Stop 0445, Washington, DC 20528.

Please submit your comments by only one method. Comments received by means other than those listed above or received after the comment period has closed will not be reviewed. All comments received will be posted without change on http://www.regulations.gov. The http://www.regulations.gov Web site is the Federal e-rulemaking portal and comments posted there are available and accessible to the public. Commenters should not include personal information such as Social Security Numbers, personal addresses, telephone numbers, and email addresses in their comments as such information will become viewable by the public on the http://www.regulations.gov Web site. It is the commenter's responsibility to safeguard his or her information. Comments submitted through http://www.regulations.gov will not include the commenter's email address unless the commenter chooses to include that information as part of his or her comment.

Postal delivery in Washington, DC, may be delayed due to security concerns. Therefore, DHS encourages the public to submit comments through the http://www.regulations.gov Web site.

Docket: For access to the docket to read background documents or comments received, go to the Federal eRulemaking portal at http://www.regulations.gov. If you need assistance to review the comments, please contact the person identified in the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section below.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Amanda Baran, Principal Director for Immigration Policy, 202-282-8805, Amanda.baran@hq.dhs.gov.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Section 302 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA), Public Law 104-208, Div. C, 110 Stat. 3009-546, amended section 235(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (“Act”), 8 U.S.C. 1225(b), to authorize the Attorney General (now the Secretary of Homeland Security as designated under the Homeland Security Act of 2002) to remove, without a hearing before an immigration judge, aliens arriving in the United States and certain other applicants for admission who are inadmissible under sections 212(a)(6)(C) or 212(a)(7) of the Act, 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(6)(C) and 1182(a)(7), for lack of valid documents necessary for admission or entry or for procuring or seeking to procure a visa, other immigration-related documentation, admission to the United States, or other immigration benefit by fraud or willful misrepresentation of a material fact.

Expedited removal proceedings under section 235(b) of the Act, 8 U.S.C. 1225(b), may be applied to two categories of aliens. First, expedited removal proceedings may be used for aliens who are “arriving in the United States.” Section 235(b)(1)(A)(i) of the Act, 8 U.S.C. 1225(b)(1)(A)(i). Second, the Secretary, in his or her sole and unreviewable discretion, may designate certain other aliens to whom the expedited removal provisions may be applied. Section 235(b)(1)(A)(iii) of the Act, 8 U.S.C. 1225(b)(1)(A)(iii); see 8 CFR 235.3(b)(1)(ii). Specifically, with limited exception, the Act authorizes the Secretary to apply (by designation) expedited removal proceedings to all or any subset of aliens who (1) have not been admitted or paroled following inspection by an immigration officer at a designated port-of-entry, and (2) have not established to the satisfaction of the immigration officer that they have been physically present in the United States continuously for the two-year period immediately prior to the date of determination of inadmissibility. Section 235(b)(1)(A)(iii)(I)-(II), 8 U.S.C. 1225(b)(1)(A)(iii)(I)-(II). The Secretary may modify such designations at any time. Id.

On November 13, 2002, the former INS issued a Federal Register notice announcing that it was exercising its authority under section 235(b)(1)(A)(iii) of the Act, 8 U.S.C. 1225(b)(1)(A)(iii), to designate additional aliens who may be placed in expedited removal proceedings. 67 FR 68924. Specifically, that notice designated the following class of aliens who may be placed in expedited removal proceedings: “all aliens who arrive in the United States by sea, either by boat or other means, who are not admitted or paroled, and who have not been physically present in the United States continuously for the two-year period prior to a determination of inadmissibility.” Id. The INS noted at the time that “[p]lacing these individuals in expedited removal proceedings and maintaining detention for the duration of all immigration proceedings, with limited exceptions, will ensure prompt immigration determinations and ensure removal from the country of those not granted relief in those cases, while at the same time protecting the rights of the individuals affected.” Id. The INS also stated that “exercising its authority to detain this class of aliens . . . will assist in deterring surges in illegal migration by sea, including potential mass migration, and preventing loss of life.” Id. The INS further noted that preventing illegal migration by sea also protects national security, as “[a] surge in illegal migration by sea threatens [that] security by diverting valuable United States Coast Guard and other resources from counter-terrorism and homeland security responsibilities.” Id.

The November 13, 2002 notice, however, contained an exception for Cuban nationals who are otherwise described in the designated class, stating that expedited removal proceedings would not be initiated against such Cuban nationals who arrive by sea. Id. The INS based this exception on “longstanding U.S. policy to treat Cubans differently from other aliens,” citing the Cuban Adjustment Act, Public Law 89-732 (1966) (8 U.S.C. 1255 note), as an example of such treatment. Id. The notice also cited section 235(b)(1)(F) of the Act, 8 U.S.C. 1225(b)(1)(F), which at the time statutorily exempted Cuban nationals who arrived by aircraft at a U.S. port of entry from being placed into expedited removal proceedings because of the lack of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba. That section expressly provides that expedited removal “shall not apply to an alien who is a native or citizen of a country in the Western Hemisphere with whose government the United States does not have full diplomatic relations and who arrives by aircraft at a port of entry.” Section 235(b)(1)(F) of the Act, 8 U.S.C. 1225(b)(1)(F).

On August 11, 2004, DHS issued a similar Federal Register notice announcing that it was exercising its authority under section 235(b)(1)(A)(iii), 8 U.S.C. 1225(b)(1)(A)(iii), to designate an additional class of aliens who may be placed in expedited removal proceedings. 69 FR 48877. That notice authorized the Department to place in expedited removal proceedings any or all members of the following class of aliens: “Aliens determined to be inadmissible under sections 212(a)(6)(C) or (7) of the Immigration and Nationality Act who are present in the U.S. without having been admitted or paroled following inspection by an immigration officer at a designated port of entry, who are encountered by an immigration officer within 100 air miles Start Printed Page 4904of the U.S. international land border, and who have not established to the satisfaction of an immigration officer that they have been physically present in the U.S. continuously for the fourteen-day (14-day) period immediately prior to the date of encounter.” Id. DHS noted at the time that “exercising its statutory authority to place these individuals in expedited removal proceedings will enhance national security and public safety by facilitating prompt immigration determinations, enabling DHS to deal more effectively with the large volume of persons seeking illegal entry, and ensure removal from the country of those not granted relief, while at the same time protecting the rights of the individuals affected.” Id.

Like the November 13, 2002 notice, the August 11, 2004 notice contained an exception for Cuban nationals who are otherwise described in the designated class and stated that expedited removal proceedings would not be initiated against such nationals encountered in the United States. Id. The notice similarly based this exception on that fact that “removals to Cuba [could not] presently be assured and for other U.S. policy reasons,” id., citing section 235(b)(1)(F) of the Act, 8 U.S.C. 1225(b)(1)(F), as well.

Since those notices were issued, significant changes in the relationship between the United States and Cuba have occurred. In December 2014, President Obama announced a historic opening between the United States and Cuba, as well as an approach for reestablishing diplomatic relations and adjusting regulations to facilitate greater travel, commerce, people-to-people ties, and the free flow of information to, from, and within Cuba. On July 20, 2015, the United States and Cuba formally reestablished full diplomatic relations and opened embassies in each other's countries. In the time following the reestablishment of full diplomatic relations, the United States and Cuba have taken concrete steps towards enhancing security, building bridges between our peoples, and promoting economic prosperity for citizens of both countries. And recent migration discussions have yielded important changes that will dramatically affect travel and migration between our two countries. Among other things, Cuba has agreed to accept and facilitate the repatriation of its nationals who are ordered removed from the United States. This arrangement and other changes remain the focus of ongoing diplomatic discussions between the two countries.

DHS also has recently seen a significant increase in attempts by Cuban nationals to illegally enter the United States. Many of those Cuban nationals have taken a dangerous journey through Central America and Mexico; others have taken to the high seas in the dangerous attempt to cross the Straits of Florida. DHS believes this increase in attempted migration has been driven in part by the perception that there is a limited window before the United States will eliminate favorable immigration policies for Cuban nationals.

The application of the expedited removal authorities to Cuban nationals must reflect these new realities. First, the Department notes that the statutory provision categorically barring the use of expedited removal for certain aliens who arrive by aircraft at a U.S. port of entry no longer applies to Cuban nationals, as the United States and Cuba have reestablished full diplomatic relations. See section 235(b)(1)(F) of the Act, 8 U.S.C. 1225(b)(1)(F). In fact, DHS and DOJ are promulgating rules in this issue of the Federal Register, amending 8 CFR 235.3(b)(1)(i) and 1235.3(b)(1)(i) to strike the regulatory exception for Cuban nationals arriving by aircraft at a U.S. port of entry. Second, the improved relationship between the United States and Cuba, along with Cuba's agreement to accept the repatriation of its nationals, has eroded certain U.S. policy justifications for the exception. Finally, a categorical exception severely impairs the Government's ability to remove unauthorized aliens encountered within the United States. For these reasons, DHS has determined, in consultation with the Department of State, that a categorical exception from expedited removal for Cuban nationals is no longer in the interests of the United States.

Accordingly, this notice eliminates the categorical exceptions for Cuban nationals, with respect to both the November 13, 2002 and August 11, 2004 notices, on a prospective basis, beginning on January 13, 2017, see 8 CFR 235.3(b)(1)(ii) (designation may be effective as early as the date of issuance). As a result, Cuban nationals encountered on or after January 13, 2017 are included in the classes of aliens subject to expedited removal as designated in the November 13, 2002 and August 11, 2004 notices. DHS is not changing any other aspects of those designations and, apart from the modification described above, will continue exercising its expedited removal authority as indicated in the November 13, 2002 and August 11, 2004 notices.

As it did for the November 13, 2002 and August 11, 2004 notices, and consistent with implementing regulations at 8 CFR 235.3(b)(1)(ii), the Department has determined that good cause exists to exempt this notice from the notice-and-comment and 30-day delayed effective date requirements under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). See 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(3)(B) and (d)(3). Delaying the implementation of this notice to allow public notice and comment would be impracticable and contrary to the public interest. Congress explicitly authorized the Secretary to designate categories of aliens to whom expedited removal proceedings may be applied, and made clear that “[s]uch designation shall be in the sole and unreviewable discretion of the Secretary and may be modified at any time.” Section 235(b)(1)(A)(iii)(I) of the Act, 8 U.S.C. 1225(b)(1)(A)(iii)(I).

Moreover, as with the August 11, 2004 notice, the designation in this notice is necessary to remove quickly from the United States aliens who are encountered shortly after illegally entering across U.S. land borders. The ability to detain such aliens while admissibility and identity are determined and protection claims are adjudicated, as well as to quickly remove those without protection claims or claims to lawful status, is a necessity for national security and public safety.

DHS has determined that pre-promulgation notice and comment would undermine these interests, while endangering human life and having a potential destabilizing effect in the region. Among other things, such opportunity for notice and comment could result in a surge in migration of Cuban nationals seeking to travel to and enter the United States prior to the effectuation of the changes announced in this notice. Such a surge would threaten national security and public safety by diverting valuable Government resources from counterterrorism and homeland security responsibilities. See Matter of D-J-, I. & N. Dec. 572, 579 (A.G. 2003). A surge could also have a destabilizing effect on the region, thus weakening the security of the United States and threatening its international relations. Additionally, a surge in migration over land or sea could result in significant loss of human life. For the foregoing reasons, the Department has determined that public notice and comment prior to promulgation of this notice would be impracticable and contrary to the public interest.

In addition, the change implemented by this notice is part of a major foreign policy initiative announced by the President, and is central to ongoing Start Printed Page 4905diplomatic discussions between the United States and Cuba with respect to travel and migration between the two countries. DHS, in consultation with the Department of State, has determined that eliminating the exception from expedited removal proceedings for Cuban nationals involves a foreign affairs function of the United States, 5 U.S.C. 553(a)(1), and that this notice is exempt from APA procedural requirements on that basis.

Finally, and for the same reasons described above, DHS finds that delay caused by publication would adversely affect the interests of the United States and the effective enforcement of the immigration laws, and therefore invokes 8 CFR 235.3(b)(1)(ii) to make this designation effective immediately upon placement on public inspection.

Although advance notice and comment procedures are not in the interests of the United States with respect to this notice, DHS is interested in receiving comments from the public on the elimination of the categorical exception for Cuban nationals. DHS believes that by maintaining a dialogue with interested parties, DHS may be better positioned to ensure that the program is even more effective in combating and deterring illegal entry, while at the same time protecting the rights of the individuals affected.

Notice of Designation of Aliens Subject to Expedited Removal Proceedings

Pursuant to section 235(b)(1)(A)(iii) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1225(b)(1)(A)(iii)) and 8 CFR 235.3(b)(1)(ii), I order as follows:

(1) With respect to the above-referenced Designation of November 13, 2002, 67 FR 68924, I hereby rescind the provision at numbered paragraph (5), specifying that “[e]xpedited removal proceedings will not be initiated against Cuban citizens or nationals who arrive by sea,” and other language of the Designation referencing or relating to that exception for Cuban citizens or nationals.

(2) With respect to the above-referenced Designation of August 11, 2004, 69 FR 48877, I hereby rescind the provision at numbered paragraph (6), specifying that “[t]he expedited removal proceedings contemplated by this notice will not be initiated against Cuban citizens or nationals,” and other language of the Designation referencing or relating to that exception for Cuban citizens or nationals.

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Signed: at Washington, DC this 11th of January, 2017.

Jeh Charles Johnson,

Secretary of Homeland Security.

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[FR Doc. 2017-00914 Filed 1-13-17; 8:45 am]

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