Earlier this year, the Administration established what it calls a “dedicated docket” to handle immigration cases that involve families who have come to the United States.
Judges in selected immigration courts are supposed to work through these cases, many of them involving families seeking asylum, within 300 days. Effectively, the dedicated docket gives priority to these cases over other cases within the immigration system.
About 35 immigration judges out of 530 are assigned to handle these high priority cases.
The idea behind the program is supposedly to discourage families to come to the United States with the thought that their court cases will take years to process. In the interim, the families are able to stay in the country.
It is important to note, though, that the dedicated docket only sets time expectations on decisions. It does not specify what decisions a judge makes.
The risk of the dedicated docket is that it could lead to rushes to judgment
There are currently well over 1 million immigration cases that are awaiting hearing in the country’s immigration courts, and many of these involve families
While the numbers suggest that the dedicated docket is making a dent in the backlog, critics of the program say that speeding up the process can in some cases lead to mistakes.
Specifically, immigrant families under this time pressure may have a difficult time finding a lawyer to represent them, much less to build a case that could include a defense to deportation even if in theory they have a good argument.
In any event, this latest incarnation of a priority docket for families serves as a useful opportunity to remind those families in South Central Pennsylvania who may be working toward becoming permanent residents or citizens of the United States not to give up.
There are several legal options available for these families which they may want to explore.