SAN DIEGO – Families arriving at the US border with Mexico will have their cases expedited in immigration court, the Biden administration said on Friday, less than two weeks after saying it was easing restrictions linked to the pandemic on the asylum application.
According to the plan, families stopped at the border from Friday could be placed in a fast-track process to determine if they can stay in the United States. Immigration judges would typically 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 said. Justice and Homeland Security in a press release.
This is not the first time that US officials have sought to expedite immigration cases of families arriving at the southwest border. The Trump and Obama administrations had previously created roles to quickly adjudicate these cases in immigration courts, which are notoriously late and can take years to resolve.
The final iteration, which the administration calls a “dedicated role”, allows judges to grant continuations “for good reasons”, according to the instructions they have received. He calls the 300-day calendar “an internal goal.”
The announcement comes as President Joe Biden comes under increasing pressure to lift pandemic-related restrictions on seeking asylum at the border that were put in place by the Trump administration in March 2020. Under the rules , citizens of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador are typically deported to Mexico within two hours with no opportunity to seek asylum or other humanitarian protections.
Biden has exempted unaccompanied children, but about one in three people who arrive in a family are still subject to it, as is almost every adult. Last week, the administration took steps to relax the rules and eventually agreed to allow 250 people a day to cross borders into the United States.
But immigrant advocates have said creating roles to expedite asylum seekers to court is not fair and that in the past has created delays for other migrants who have waited years for their cases be heard.
Eleanor Acer, senior director of refugee protection at Human Rights First, urged the Biden administration to reverse the Trump administration’s measures preventing Central American migrants fleeing violence from qualifying for humanitarian protection to states -United.
“US asylum procedures cannot be considered fair when the Biden administration continues to blatantly violate US refugee laws and treaties,” she said in a statement.
The border patrol had more than 170,000 encounters in April, its highest number since March 2001, including 50,000 with people traveling as a family. Many of them are recurring cruisers because being kicked out has no legal consequences.
Friday’s announcement gives families at the border a higher priority than other cases in an immigration court system with around 1.3 million pending cases. Attorney General Merrick Garland said the effort was in line with his goal for immigration courts to adjudicate “quickly and fairly.”
The National Association of Immigration Judges is studying the proposal, said Dana Marks, immigration judge and executive vice president of the group. She said the group had not been consulted on the plan.
Immigrants have received deportation orders in more than 90% of the cases that have been decided in the Trump administration’s family unit records, according to statistics from the Justice Department’s executive office for the review of immigration, which manages immigration courts.
Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy adviser at the American Immigration Council, said the new plan appears to give judges more leeway to grant extensions in family cases, but he is concerned that many asylum seekers placed in these special roles over the past two administrations have ended up representing themselves in court.
“We are very skeptical of any further attempt to create a ‘rocket role’ and have continued to believe that rushed justice is not justice at all,” he said.
In addition to New York, Los Angeles, San Diego and El Paso, the role is introduced in Denver; Detroit; Miami, Newark, New Jersey; San Francisco; and Seattle.