New Immigration Court Docket Intends to Speed Up Expulsion of Freshly Arrived Migrants

The Biden administration announced on Thursday that they have introduced a new fast-track process in immigration courts. This new process aims to reduce the time it takes to make decisions on asylum claims for certain single adults from years to months.

Migrants who move to five specific cities – Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York – will be put on a special list called the “recent arrivals docket.” The goal of this list is to have judges make decisions on their immigration cases within 180 days. Currently, it takes about four years or more to process these cases. The slow courts are thought to be a big reason why more people come, especially those with weak claims.

The Justice Department has chosen 10 judges to work on the project. Officials stated that they were unsure about the number of cases they would handle, which made it challenging to determine the potential impact.

Administration officials are saying that the reason for the lack of bold actions is the failure of a comprehensive Senate bill this year. This is a common criticism from Republicans, who are blaming President Joe Biden for his handling of immigration during an election year, especially with the increase in border arrivals.

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“Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas stated that while this administrative step is not as comprehensive as the bipartisan Senate bill, it is a way to enforce the law and discourage irregular migration in the absence of Congressional action.”

Officials selected these five cities because the judges there had some free time to hear cases and because these cities were popular destinations for migrants.

Asylum seekers can get work permits within six months of arriving, which some people argue encourages them to come even if their claims are not strong. As people stay in the U.S. for a longer time and build families or connections with the community, more people are against the idea of sending them back to their home country in the future.

The government has been attempting for a long time to prioritize new arrivals in the asylum process, with the goal of deporting those whose claims are rejected within a few months instead of waiting for years. Both the Obama and Trump administrations attempted to speed up certain cases on a different path starting in 2014.

In 2021, the Biden administration created a special process for asylum-seeking families in 10 cities. This process allows them to have their cases heard quickly in court and receive a decision within 300 days. In 2022, the Biden administration proposed a plan where asylum officers, instead of immigration judges, would make decisions on a small number of family claims in nine cities.

Dana Leigh Marks, an immigration judge who retired in 2021 after 35 years, explained that asylum seekers, including those who can afford it, have not been able to hire lawyers in the past due to limited time constraints in the “rocket dockets” system. Marks also mentioned that those efforts did not succeed in reducing migration.

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