Biden Admin. Will Fast-Track Cases for Migrant Families Arriving at Border

The Biden administration announced a new plan that would speed up the hearings process for families who arrive at the U.S. border with Mexico seeking asylum, although advocates are saying this will deny immigrants of their rights.

As of Friday, both the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security said in a statement that they will use a new “dedicated docket” process for families who arrive at the border. The goal is to significantly decrease the amount of time it takes for migrants to have their cases adjudicated.

According to a joint statement released by both departments, the new process will help families understand the immigration system and provide them with pro bono legal services. Immigration judges hearing cases in the designated cities of Denver, Detroit, El Paso, Los Angeles, Miami, Newark, New York City, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle would generally decide these cases within 300 days of an initial hearing.

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Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said families should not have to wait years to get processed.

“Families arriving at the border who are placed in immigration proceedings should have their cases decided in an orderly, efficient, and fair manner,” said Mayorkas. “Families who have recently arrived should not languish in a multi-year backlog; today’s announcement is an important step for both justice and border security.”

But immigrant advocacy groups say that prioritizing speed comes at the cost of due process. The “expedited court proceedings… will rob them of basic due process protections, including the opportunity to obtain adequate legal counsel or to fully prepare their cases,” Mary Meg McCarthy, executive director of the National Immigrant Justice Center, said in a statement. “Returning to this failed policy directly contradicts the Biden administration’s purported goals of improving access to justice and racial equity in U.S. justice systems.”

Advocates also take issue with Biden’s continued use of Title 42, a public health order related to Covid-19 that allows the U.S. to expel migrant families and single adults before they can claim asylum through the normal process, although the return to the dedicated docket may signal the administration is moving toward ending the order.

“Until we stop Title 42 expulsions that prevent people from making their asylum claims, we will not have a safe and just process,” Luis Guerra, strategic capacity officer for CLINIC, said in a statement. “The goals of our asylum system should not be fast-tracking cases, but ensuring access to counsel and due process and treating people with dignity. The consequence of getting this wrong is a literal death sentence for people fleeing violence, persecution and other horrors.”

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