Statement by National Immigrant Justice Center Executive Director Mary Meg McCarthy
The National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) condemns the Biden administration’s plan to force families who arrive in the United States seeking asylum to go through expedited court proceedings that will rob them of basic due process protections, including the opportunity to obtain adequate legal counsel or to fully prepare their cases. Prior administrations’ reliance on so-called “dedicated dockets” has resulted in thousands of families navigating the asylum system alone, without a fair opportunity to present their stories to immigration judges who will decide whether to allow them to remain in the United States or deport them to the violence or persecution they fled. Returning to this failed policy directly contradicts the Biden administration’s purported goals of improving access to justice and racial equity in U.S. justice systems.
With today’s announcement, the administration is prioritizing immigration policy actions exactly backwards. At the border, the Department of Homeland Security continues to expel asylum seekers under the Title 42 border closure using the false premise of public health. In the immigration court system, judges remain bound by Trump-era policies that exclude survivors of domestic violence and gang-related violence from protection. Most critically, more than half of the people navigating the immigration court system still don’t have lawyers by their side. A rocket docket that moves people too quickly through this flawed system is the opposite of justice.
For months, immigration legal service providers have sought to educate the administration about the tremendous due process challenges immigrants already face in the courts, including during ongoing contract negotiations for the Legal Orientation Program that provides basic “know your rights” information to unrepresented immigrants. Today’s announcement arrived without any consultation with these providers, or any additional effort to address the dysfunction of the immigration court system which will only be exacerbated by another round of expedited dockets.
Instead of moving to expedite cases without guarantee of counsel and injecting further chaos into the overburdened immigration courts, the administration must build an appointed counsel program and quickly focus its attention on urgent deficiencies in the asylum and immigration court systems.