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A National Assessment of the Biden Administration's Dedicated Docket Initiative

December 06, 2022 (2 min read)

TRAC, Dec. 6, 2022

"The Immigration Court's Dedicated Docket (DD) program was created by the Biden administration to speed the processing of families seeking asylum after arriving along the Southwest Border. Over 110,000 DD cases covering each individual in these families have now been assigned to this initiative. To determine how this program is working, this report follows this cohort of nearly 40,000 of these cases that have now been closed.

The goal set by the Biden Administration on May 28, 2021, when it announced this new initiative was to issue decisions in these cases within 300 days from their initial master calendar hearing. However, the Administration announced: "While the goal of this process is to decide cases expeditiously, fairness will not be compromised."

Using detailed case-by-case Immigration Court records, this report is the first full-scale national assessment of whether the program has lived up to these goals. We found in brief:

  • Cases did move expeditiously: 83% of closed cases were completed in less than 300 days from the date of the NTA. Cases without attorneys were closed faster than those with attorneys.

  • Only 34% found representation in closed cases, falling far short of announced objectives of ensuring access to representation.

  • Only 33% were able to file an asylum application in closed cases since the paperwork is difficult to complete without representation.

  • Only 7% (or 2,894 cases out of 39,187) were granted asylum since even with representation, and after filing asylum applications, families with expedited hearing schedules were much less likely to prevail and be granted asylum.

As discussed in the full report, at each stage expedited hearing processing substantially reduced the odds that families were able to have their asylum claims considered and asylum itself granted.

The evidence suggests that the United States can implement schemes to make asylum cases fast or make asylum cases fair, but not both. TRAC's analysis of the dismal outcome of Dedicated Docket cases thus far, along with past evaluations of earlier "rocket docket" initiatives, points to there being no quick fix for the country's asylum backlog. With time and a substantial increase in resources – including more judges, asylum officers, support staff, publicly provided attorneys for asylum seekers and perhaps an independent Article I Immigration Court – the asylum process might become reasonably speedy without sacrificing fairness.

The country needs careful and independent monitoring of this administration's growing initiatives to expedite asylum cases so the public can judge whether these initiatives live up to their goals and the claims being made as to their "success."

Read the full report at:

To examine a variety of Immigration Court data, including asylum data, the backlog, new filings, and more now updated through October 2022, use TRAC's Immigration Court tools here: 

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