AUSTIN, Texas — Immigration courts are backed up by 1.4 million cases, according to researchers at Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University.
It takes years to go through the process. In May 2021, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice created a “Dedicated Docket” process.
"Under this new process, certain recently arrived families may be placed on the Dedicated Docket. Families may qualify if they are apprehended between ports of entry on or after Friday, May 28, 2021, placed in removal proceedings, and enrolled in Alternatives to Detention (ATD). DHS, in partnership with the Department of Justice (DOJ) Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), will make available information services to help families understand the immigration system and refer families to pro bono legal service providers for possible representation," a DHS and DOJ joint press release shows.
The KVUE Defenders found this could cause other problems.
"It raises questions both about how disruptive this may be for the immigration court system and for immigration judges. When you move cases around, it's not as if you're moving them in a vacuum. Other cases have to move. So these cases may move quicker, but other cases may move slower," Austin Kocher, PhD, TRAC assistant research professor, said.
The goal of the “Dedicated Docket” program is to have a decision within 300 days of the family’s initial master calendar hearing. TRAC statistics show the initial hearing could still take months.
"I think there's also legitimate questions about whether the administration will really be able to keep its commitment to due process and fairness. Sometimes when cases move quickly, if those individuals aren't given the support and the legal counsel and don't have access to an attorney, cases that move quickly can actually create barriers for those individuals to really have the time to put together a full case and find an attorney," Kocher said.
"While the goal of this process is to decide cases expeditiously, fairness will not be compromised," the press release shows.
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