DHS sets up fast-track docket for migrant families in 10 U.S. cities

Border Report

Justice Department goal is to have judges adjudicate asylum cases in 300 days, provide legal services information to families

Migrants wait for transportation at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in McAllen, Texas, on Palm Sunday, March 28, 2021. U.S. authorities are releasing migrant families at the border without notices to appear in immigration court, and sometimes without any paperwork at all. A spokesman for the National Border Patrol Council, a union that represents Border Patrol agents, said it was done to cut processing time at overwhelmed holding facilities. He said it takes an hour to 90 minutes to prepare one notice to appear in court. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The Biden administration starting today will be placing some migrant families in a “dedicated docket” to speed up their stay or deportation.

The process applies to immigration courts in 10 cities, including El Paso and San Diego. The courts were chosen based on the availability of judges and their localities having a well-established community of legal services providers, the Department of Homeland Security said.

Families apprehended between ports of entry on or after today who are placed in removal proceedings and approved for alternatives to detention qualify to be placed in the dedicated docket, according to DHS.

“Under the dedicated docket, Executive Office for Immigration Review judges will work to issue a decision within 300 days of the initial master calendar hearing, subject to the circumstances of each case – including allowing time for families to seek representation where needed,” the agency said in a statement. “While the goal of this process is to decide cases expeditiously, fairness will not be compromised.”

DHS said it would make available information on the U.S. immigration system to these families and refer them to pro bono legal service providers.

Details on how many families could be accommodated on the dedicated docket remained unclear on Friday. In El Paso, for instance, advocates complain about large numbers of migrant families being summarily expelled under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Title 42 public health order. Those families are not placed on the alternatives to detention program necessary to qualify for the dedicated docket.

In contrast, news reports have documented the widespread release of migrant families with small children in South Texas cities — where no dedicated docket process is being implemented for now.

But speeding up immigration hearings has been a long-time goal of presidential administrations and some advocates. As of the end of April, almost 1.3 million cases remained pending in U.S. immigration court. That included 207,477 in Texas and 192,406 in California, according to the TRAC System of the University of Syracuse.

“Families arriving at the border who are placed in immigration proceedings should have their cases decided in an orderly, efficient and fair manner,” DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement. “Families who recently arrived should not languish in a multi-year backlog.”

The other cities where immigration courts will use the dedicated docket are: Denver, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, Newark, New York City, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle.  

Visit the BorderReport.com homepage for the latest exclusive stories and breaking news about issues along the United States-Mexico border.

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