WASHINGTON (TNS) — Backlash mounted on Monday to President Donald Trump's call for deporting migrants without a court hearing _ a step that many legal scholars deem a violation of constitutional rights afforded citizens and non-citizens alike.
It's not the first time the president has suggested curtailing due process, even as he regularly complains that he's been treated unfairly by the news media, Congress, foreign leaders or his own Justice Department and the special counsel investigating Russia's influence in the 2016 election.
Fairness is a recurring theme for Trump. But so is curbing illegal immigration.
On the latter, he dug in on Monday during an Oval Office meeting with Jordan's king and queen, reiterating his disdain for hiring more immigration judges, which many lawmakers in both parties view as critical in order to cut a backlog of 700,000 asylum and removal cases.
"Where do you find 5,000 people to be judges?" Trump asserted _ citing a wildly inflated figure that for weeks the White House has been unable to substantiate. "It leads to graft ... .We want a system where, when people come in illegally, they have to go out. A nice simple system that works."
No congressional proposal has involved adding anything close to 5,000 judges.
The Justice Department has almost 350 immigration judges to hear asylum claims and deportation cases. The federal judiciary, from the Supreme Court to trial level benches across the country, includes about 1,300 judges.
A plan from Texas Sen. Ted Cruz would roughly double the number of immigration judges nationwide, from about 350 to 700. Sen. John Cornyn supports a plan that would add 200 immigration judges.
"Just because you don't see a judge doesn't mean you don't receive due process," White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Monday. "The president would like us to secure the borders."
Sanders noted that thousands of immigrants are removed voluntarily or through "expedited removal" every month without ever seeing a judge. "The president would like to see more expedited removal.
"We'd like to see the backlog stopped," Sanders insisted, without squaring that with the president's resistance to hiring more immigration judges.
Federal law allows for low-level federal officials to deport people caught entering the country illegally through "expedited removal" _ unless the migrant is making an asylum claim or seeking refugee status.
Trump's comments on Monday expanded on a Sunday tweet in which he called for ending court hearings and due process for migrants accused of crossing the border illegally.
"When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no Judge or Court Cases, bring them back from where they came," read the tweet, which referred to border-crossers who "invade our Country."
Last week he asserted that illegal immigrants "infest" the United States, drawing condemnation for dehumanizing and inflammatory language that aggravated the public relations headache facing the White House after images surfaced of migrant children detained in chain link cages.
Just four months ago, he complained about a lack of due process when it came to the resignation of his trusted staff secretary, Rob Porter, after allegations surfaced that he had physically abused two former wives.
"Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?" the president tweeted.
But in other circumstances, the president is eager to dispense with legal niceties of the sort guaranteed by the Constitution both to U.S. citizens and to non-citizens subject to U.S. law.
Four days after he aired his complaints about the treatment of Porter, a gunman killed 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Fla.
At a freewheeling discussion on school safety at the White House two weeks later, the president proposed allowing police to confiscate guns from anyone they suspected of being dangerous or mentally ill. The idea caught Vice President Mike Pence and other close advisers completely off guard. It alarmed the NRA, the influential Second Amendment advocacy group whose members overwhelmingly backed Trump in 2016.
"Take the guns first, go through due process second," Trump said.
Critics and allies alike have rolled their eyes at the casual approach to legal procedure, especially given the president's regular demands for "fair" treatment and loud complaints at perceived slights.
He accused the "fake news" of "very unfair" treatment of his wife during her long absence from the public after surgery. He's regularly complained of "unfair" treatment by China, Mexico, Canada and other trading partners.
Trump is not a lawyer. But the presidential oath of office includes a pledge to support, protect and defend the Constitution. And his willingness to set aside basic tenets of the American legal system have generated dismay among civil libertarians and legal scholars.
At the liberal Alliance For Justice, president Nan Aron called Trump's "complete disdain for the rule of the law ... reckless."
"This president's dangerous ignorance and lack of respect for due process, for our justice system, for courts and for judges themselves must be called out and stopped," she said.
Sanders noted that thousands of migrants are removed from the United States each month without a hearing, either voluntarily or through expedited removal, and these procedures do amount to "due process."
Asked why the president has resisted hiring more immigration judges to address the case backlog, she said his focus is on securing the border because "we'd like to stop the problem before it starts."
"We're not opposed to the speeding up the process," she said.