Families arriving at the U.S. border with Mexico will have their cases fast-tracked in immigration court, the Biden administration said Friday, less than two weeks after it said it was easing pandemic-related restrictions on seeking asylum.
Under the plan, which goes into effect Friday, families stopped on the border could be placed in expedited proceedings aimed at determining whether they can remain in the United States. Immigration judges would generally decide these cases within 300 days of an initial hearing in one of 10 cities including New York, Los Angeles and border communities such as El Paso, Texas, and San Diego, according to a joint statement from the U.S. Department of Justice and Homeland Security.
It isn't the first time U.S. officials have sought to expedite the immigration cases of families arriving on the Southwest border. The Trump and Obama administrations previously created dockets aimed at quickly deciding these cases in immigration courts, which are notoriously backlogged; cases can take years to resolve.
The latest iteration, which the administration is calling a “dedicated docket,” lets judges grant continuances “for good cause,” according to instructions sent by the Justice Department. It calls the 300-day timeline “an internal goal.”
The announcement comes as President Biden is under mounting pressure to lift pandemic-related restrictions on seeking asylum at the border that were put in place by the Trump administration in March 2020. Under the rules, citizens of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador are typically expelled to Mexico within two hours without any opportunity to seek asylum or other humanitarian protections.