McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — The Biden administration in August dramatically increased the number of cases placed into an expedited federal immigration court process, according to new data.
A total of 11,847 asylum-seekers were placed into the Dedicated Docket program last month — an 81% increase from those placed into the program through July, Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), a Syracuse University research institute that tracks immigration court cases reported Monday.
The Department of Homeland Security in late May announced that it would begin placing migrant families into this new fast-track program that is designed to process immigration cases in under 300 days. Families apprehended between legal U.S. ports of entry and placed in removal proceedings and approved for alternatives to detention were among those who qualify to be placed in the Dedicated Docket.
But DHS officials had, at first, been quite slow at actually putting people into the program.
Data released Monday, however, shows an uptick in placements that have resulted in an estimated 6,000 families or an average of almost 400 asylum-seekers per day. The total number of individuals in the program is now almost 17,000, TRAC reports.
TRAC data also shows that six immigration judges in the country have a total of 66% — or two-thirds — of all fast-tracked cases in the country. The courts with the most cases are in New York City and Boston, TRAC data shows.
“So it does raise questions about how those immigration judges are going to be able to manage that high volume of cases and move them through in a timeframe that the administration would like,” Austin Kocher, a TRAC researcher, told Border Report on Monday.
In announcing the program, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Attorney General Merrick Garland vowed the new program will “decide cases expeditiously” but said, “fairness will not be compromised.”
But TRAC found a substantial percentage of cases placed in this fast-tracked program were not flagged, or identified as such. And so it’s uncertain whether the cases will get quick attention.
“More than one-third of cases identified as being on the Dedicated Docket don’t actually have that Dedicated Docket flag so that does raise questions as to how the courts will report on this,” Kocher said.
He noted that “it does take human time and labor to do this and the courts are backlogged as we know and have a lot on their plate.”
Nationwide, there is a backlog of over 1.3 million immigration court cases. This includes migrants whose cases were transferred from the Migrant Protection Protocols program, as well as other asylum-seekers, such as those placed in the Dedicated Docket.
The coronavirus pandemic halted for a year most in-person proceedings, which Kocher said are now starting back up. In addition, immigration courts also are operating via video conferencing and telephonic recording.