U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas and U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland today announced the creation of new immigration dockets at an accelerated timeline for certain families apprehended between ports of entry. Effective immediately, the new dockets will apply to families who are placed in immigration proceedings in one of ten cities, and who will also be placed into Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) “Alternative to Detention” programs that typically include electronic monitoring. The announcement also refers to expanded Legal Orientation Programs (LOP), programs which are largely run for those in immigration detention.
In response to today’s announcement, Ursela Ojeda of the Women’s Refugee Commission’s Migrant Rights and Justice program issued the following statement:
“The Women’s Refugee Commission is concerned that the Biden administration is returning to fast-paced immigration court processes for families seeking safety at the US-Mexico border. These ‘Dedicated Docket’ immigration hearings are reminiscent of both the Trump and Obama administrations’ rocket dockets, in which families were quickly rushed through proceedings without a fair chance to seek protection. As a result, many were ordered deported without ever having the chance to meaningfully make their case to an immigration judge.
“While we encourage the Biden administration to continue efforts to expand access to legal orientations, we are concerned that these families will be unnecessarily placed on electronic surveillance and subjected to a shortened timeline that risks undermining meaningful due process within the highly politicized and subjective immigration court system. Although the decision suggests some flexibility so that ‘fairness will not be compromised,’ WRC is deeply concerned that the suggested time constraints, lack of guaranteed counsel, and meaningful community-based case support could set families up to fail.
“We are also concerned that more than four months into its term, the administration has continued the use of the unlawful Trump-era expulsions to deny access to asylum to all but a small number of people seeking protection. The vast majority of asylum seekers are currently blocked from seeking protection at ports of entry, including some who have been illegally ‘metered’ for years, and today’s announcement makes no mention of a plan to restore that access.
“We urge the Biden administration to immediately end the use of summary expulsions under the guise of the pandemic and rescind Trump-era asylum case law decisions that will wreak havoc for anyone who manages to access the asylum process, including those under today’s announcement. Families and individuals seeking refuge cannot wait a minute longer. WRC urges the Biden administration to implement policies that ensure all families and adults who arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border can seek asylum and have their cases be fairly decided. It is time to restart asylum and welcome with dignity, once and for all.”