Unrepresented Families Seeking Asylum on "Dedicated Docket" Ordered Deported by Immigration Courts
(13 Jan 2022) According to the latest case-by-case records through December 2021 from the Immigration Courts, over 72,000 cases involving asylum seeking families have been assigned to the Court's "Dedicated Docket" (DD) initiative. These cases made up nearly one in five (18%) of all new Notices to Appear (NTAs) filed at the Court during this period. Already 12 percent of the DD cases have been completed according to Court records.

When the Dedicated Docket program was created in May 2021, the Biden administration set a goal of issuing decisions in these cases within 300 days. This is an ambitious goal given that currently asylum seekers are now waiting an average of 1,621 days for their cases to be heard — nearly four and a half years.

The Biden administration claimed that "fairness will not be compromised" when expediting DD cases, acknowledging the importance of these families having access to "established communities of legal services providers." A total of 1,557 asylum seekers on the Dedicated Docket have received deportation orders so far. Of these, only 75 — just 4.7 percent — had representation. While typically 90 percent of asylum seekers not subject to an expedited schedule were represented in asylum cases decided during this period, seven months into the program, just 15.5 percent of those on the Dedicated Docket are now represented, according to Court records. While securing an attorney may take time, still less than half (45%) of those assigned to the DD program back in June currently are represented.

Selectivity based upon nationality of the family also appears to occur when admitting families into the Dedicated Docket program. Just three nationalities — Brazil, Ecuador, and Honduras — make up fully half of those admitted thus far. This does not resemble the general make up of individuals seeking entry to this country along our border with Mexico. Some commentators have suggested that if a country will accept Title 42 expulsions, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will choose expulsion rather than permitting the person to enter the country through the Dedicated Docket initiative.

One unanticipated consequence of the Dedicated Docket has been the failure of the government to keep up with the necessary paperwork. One in every ten DD Court cases thus far have been dismissed because the Court lacked jurisdiction as the actual filing of the Notice to Appear had not reached the Court by the time the first hearing was scheduled.

A related issue is the continued failure of the EOIR to implement consistent tracking of Dedicated Docket cases within their own records. To properly manage this initiative and provide accurate, timely reporting to the public and the current administration, all families assigned to this program should be reliably tracked. This has not occurred.

These findings are based upon case-by-case Court files obtained and analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University. These data were obtained through a series of Freedom of Information requests to the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), an administrative unit within the Justice Department where the Immigration Courts are currently based.

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