Biden Department of Justice’s New “Rocket Docket” Further Undermines Due Process Rights for Refugee Families Seeking Safety From Persecution

Written by Alex Mensing — Published on May 28, 2021

Media Contact Information

Alex Mensing, Communications Strategist
alexm@innovationlawlab.org
(619) 432-6378

Under the guise of reducing immigration court backlogs, the Biden Administration is moving to quickly deport refugee families, many to certain death.

Portland, OR.— Innovation Law Lab expressed grave concern about the Biden Administration’s May 28th announcement of a “Dedicated Docket” process for families who have recently arrived to the United States in search of safety from torture, death threats and persecution. The immigration court system is controlled entirely by the executive branch. Under the Trump administration, the attorneys general issued many dangerous, anti-immigrant rulings to undermine the ability of immigration judges to grant asylum to families fleeing harm. Many of these harmful rulings are still in place and will have a devastating impact on families fleeing persecution when combined with Biden’s new rocket docket.

The idea that a weaponized immigration court system operating under a decimated asylum system will cease being a deportation machine and magically blossom into a due process haven is like pretending Hannibal Lecter isn’t going to eat you because he dressed up for dinner.

– Stephen Manning, Executive Director of Innovation Law Lab.

In 2019, Innovation Law Lab joined the Southern Poverty Law Center, Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project, Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. and the Santa Fe Dreamers Project to sue the federal government over the weaponization, pervasive bias and widespread dysfunction of the nation’s immigration court system. One of the policies challenged by the ongoing federal lawsuit, Las Americas v. Biden, is the “FAMU Directive,” a Trump administration policy that expedited removal proceedings for recently-arrived families irrespective of the needs of each individual case. That policy was rescinded by the Dedicated Docket memo announced today, but the new policy creates a similar process that will also sacrifice asylum-seeking families’ rights, especially in the absence of significant reforms of the underlying system.

Innovation Law Lab and the Southern Poverty Law Center also published a report in 2019 entitled The Attorney General’s Judges that demonstrates how the immigration court system, long dysfunctional, has effectively collapsed. Under President Trump, attorneys general used their authority to wield the immigration court system as a weapon against asylum seekers and immigrants of color. Attempts by the Biden Administration to reduce the immigration court backlog without addressing the fundamental unfairness of the system will only result in certain death and torture for vulnerable families. 

The 2019 report provides recommendations, including:

  • Create an independent Article I court outside the Attorney General’s control
  • Ensure reform driven by guiding principles, such as:
    • Transparent, merits-based appointment
    • Tenure and protection from removal without cause
    • Internal accountability mechanisms
    • Functioning appellate system

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