The Biden administration is referring to this plan as a “Dedicated Docket.” With record-breaking numbers of people arriving at the southern border this year, our already backlogged immigration courts are completely swamped. All unaccompanied minors are being taken to holding centers, but some family units are still being sent back to Mexico to wait for their cases to be heard. With this new Dedicated Docket plan, family units will be able to be placed on a special list of applicants who will have their cases prioritized to go before judges in ten cities around the country. So how fast might the process be for these lucky families? The stated goal is to have the cases heard within 300 days, but the administration admits that this is only a “goal,” and not a firm deadline. (Associated Press)
Families arriving at the U.S. border with Mexico will have their cases fast-tracked in immigration court, the Biden administration said Friday, less than two weeks after it said it was easing pandemic-related restrictions on seeking asylum.
Under the plan, families stopped on the border starting Friday could be placed in expedited proceedings aimed at determining whether they can remain in the United States. Immigration judges would generally decide these cases within 300 days of an initial hearing in 10 cities including New York, Los Angeles and border communities such as El Paso, Texas, and San Diego, the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security said in a statement.
It isn’t the first time U.S. officials have sought to expedite the immigration cases of families arriving on the southwest border. The Trump and Obama administrations previously created dockets aimed at quickly deciding these cases in the immigration courts, which are notoriously backlogged and can take years to resolve cases.
You can read the memo establishing this new program here.
The first thing to know about this program is that it only applies to family groups who were already placed on alternatives to detention, in other words, catch and release. These are people who were already being turned loose in the interior of the country, frequently without even being given a court date. Aside from setting them up with some pro bono legal representation, it doesn’t change their situation very much beyond giving them head of the line privileges in a line that’s already pretty long.
There are several problems with this program and it’s even drawing complaints from illegal immigration advocates. With few specifics offered as to the criteria that immigration officials will use to determine which families qualify, what happens to all of the migrants who were placed in the regular queue, some of whom have already been waiting for years?
Also, who are the judges that will be prioritizing these cases? According to the memo, the cases are to be assigned to “immigration judges who generally have docket time available to manage a case on that timeline.” Again, which judges are these who apparently have all of this free time on their schedules? The immigration courts are backed up as far as the eye can see, with many cases taking years to finish processing.
Even if you accept Biden’s premise that everyone showing up at the border should be let in, all of these people require background checks that can be very difficult to complete. Just this month the Border Patrol caught members of multiple gangs, including MS-13, crossing the border with a flood of other migrants. They captured ten sex offenders trying to cross over just in the past two weeks, including some who have been convicted of preying on children. And they freely admit that they can’t catch them all given the size of the crowds swarming the border.
What we need is more resources for the Border Patrol to stop the flow of unauthorized entrants and properly screen those who are being considered for Joe Biden’s catch and release program. What we do not need is to establish an express lane to pump them through even faster. Joe Biden is looking to spend $6 trillion in magical money in the coming months. How about you pry some of that loose and finish building the wall, Joe? If we’re just going to set giant piles of money on fire anyway, we may as well do something that’s actually productive with some of it.