LOS ANGELES, CA – Two years ago, the Biden administration launched the “Dedicated Docket,” a fast-track immigration court program targeting families seeking asylum at our southern border, promising that it would resolve cases “more expeditiously and fairly.” Today, the Center for Immigration Law and Policy (CILP) at the UCLA School of Law and 75 partners across the country sent a letter to top Biden administration officials renewing our call to terminate the program, which has been marked by gross miscarriages of justice and irreparable harm to children and families. Two years into its operation, the Dedicated Docket has not delivered on the Biden administration’s promise of a fair process for families seeking asylum.
This national letter comes as the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program at Harvard Law School released a report detailing the injustices of Boston’s Dedicated Docket, building on CILP’s groundbreaking report last May on the Docket’s due process failures in Los Angeles.
Among the report’s key findings in May 2022:
- 99.1% of all cases completed as of February 1, 2022 on the Dedicated Docket in Los Angeles, resulted in deportation orders.
- 70.1% of those on the Docket in Los Angeles do not have attorneys.
- 72.4% of deportation orders were issued in absentia, meaning the immigrant families never had their day in court.
- 48.4% of in absentia deportation orders were against children, two-thirds of whom were age 6 and under.
“The Biden administration has continued to double down on prioritizing expediency over fairness, fast tracking families through removal proceedings without legal representation,” said Talia Inlender, Deputy Director of the Center for Immigration Law and Policy (CILP) at the UCLA School of Law. “It is past time for this administration to terminate the Dedicated Docket, and put an end to all policies that force families and others seeking asylum into expedited proceedings that fail to provide meaningful access to counsel and a fair shot at remaining safely in the United States.”
In October 2022, legal service providers, court observers, medical professionals, and allied organizations from across the country similarly raised the alarm bells on the Dedicated Docket’s due process failures, citing low rates of legal representation, high rates of removal orders (including in absentia), and disproportionate harm to children. New data released just this week from Boston reinforces these findings, showing that not a single family won asylum without a lawyer on that Docket as of August 2022, and at least 479 children have been ordered removed in absentia.
Yet the administration has failed to act. Today’s letter again calls for the termination of the Dedicated Docket. It also includes concrete recommendations to the Biden administration, detailing steps it must take to ensure a fair process for families seeking asylum.
“Under our laws, families fleeing persecution are entitled to a fair and meaningful opportunity to seek protection,” said Blaine Bookey, Legal Director of the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS). “The Dedicated Docket has denied families that opportunity, putting speed before justice in cases with life-or-death stakes. Due process failures in the asylum system result in people being wrongfully deported to countries where they face grave harm. We urge the Biden administration to terminate the Dedicated Docket and establish a fair and humane asylum process for all families, children, and adults seeking safety.”
“Over the last two years, families on the Dedicated Docket have been forced to navigate our complex immigration system without meaningful access to counsel or critical humanitarian relief, and ordered removed when they do not appear in court through no fault of their own, with devastating consequences,” said Tiffany Lieu, Albert M. Sacks Clinical Teaching and Advocacy Fellow with the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program at Harvard Law School. “It is time the Biden administration terminates the Dedicated Docket and takes steps to safeguard asylum seekers’ right to be meaningfully heard and have their day in court.”
Founded in 2020, the Center for Immigration Law and Policy (CILP) at the UCLA School of Law expands the law school's role as a national leader in immigration law and policy, generating innovative ideas at the intersection of immigration scholarship and practice and serving as a hub for transforming those ideas into meaningful changes in immigration policy.