Advocacy groups worry immigration court ‘rocket docket’ will lead to more deportations


Advocates urge Biden to focus on ending Title 42 expulsions and provide universal legal aid to asylum seekers

Migrants from Honduras wait in a Border Patrol truck after turning themselves in upon crossing the U.S.-Mexico border Monday, May 17, 2021, in La Joya, Texas. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Hours after the Biden administration unveiled a plan to fast-track asylum cases involving families, a slew of migrant advocacy groups raised red flags.

The 60 organizations that are part of the Welcome with Dignity Campaign are concerned the initiative will result in hasty denials of asylum and more deportations. They are instead asking Biden to end Title 42 expulsions, rebuild and fully staff the immigration court system.

“People seeking protection in the United States are not looking for expeditious processing at the expense of a safe, humane and just process,” said Luis Guerra, interim manager for the Welcome with Dignity Campaign. “Until we stop Title 42 expulsions that prevent people from making their asylum claims, we will not have a safe and just process.”

Title 42 is a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention public health rule that allows immigration authorities to expel unauthorized migrants within hours of entering the country. The plan unveiled Friday by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas creates a “dedicated docket” in 10 U.S. cities, including El Paso, with the goal of adjudicating asylum cases in 300 days or less

But “the goals of our asylum system should not be fast-tracking cases, but ensuring access to counsel and due process,” Guerra said. “The consequence of getting this wrong is a literal death sentence for people fleeing violence, persecution and other horrors.”

DHS says it will avail migrants with information on the U.S. immigration system and legal services available in each community.

Karen Tumlin, director and founder of the Justice Action Center, said other administrations (Trump and Obama) tried fast-tracking immigration cases and those attempts did not end well for migrants.

“The Biden administration becomes the third to create a ‘rocket docket.’ History tells us these systems don’t work and lead to unjustified denials of asylum,” she said. “First and foremost, we need a functional asylum system that provides safety and justice for those fleeing persecution. Until we have that, touting the need for efficiency is tinkering the edges of needed reform.”

Human Rights Watch also wants Biden to stop expelling migrants first.

“The Biden administration should put the efficiency cart behind the fairness horse and end the misguided expulsions of asylum seekers to danger – in violation of U.S. refugee law,” said Clara Long, the group’s associate U.S. director. She called for Biden to rescind Title 42 and provide universal legal representation to asylum seekers.

Conchita Cruz, who just a few weeks ago praised the administration’s move to reunite some migrant families separated by Trump, on Friday called the DHS decision “shameful.”

“This new expedited docket will send asylum seekers in an expedited fashion toward their deportations and deaths. We hope that this administration will not allow this massive injustice to happen and instead focus on reversing Trump administration policies and building a fundamentally more welcoming asylum system,” said Cruz, co-executive director of the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project.

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