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Denial of Justice: The Biden Administration’s Dedicated Docket in the Boston Immigration Court

June 28, 2023 (2 min read)

Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program (HIRCP),Harvard Law School Immigration Project, La Alianza, Women’s Law Association, Lambda, June 2023

Denial of Justice: The Biden Administration’s Dedicated Docket in the Boston Immigration Court

"In May 2021, the Biden administration launched fast-tracked immigration proceedings—known as the Dedicated Docket—for families who have recently arrived in the United States.  The Docket, which exists in eleven cities across the country, targets asylum-seeking families who have recently arrived via the southern border.  The Biden administration’s stated goals for the Docket are to “decide cases expeditiously” within 300 days of the initial master calendar hearing without compromising “due process and fundamental” fairness. Since May 2021, the Biden administration has assigned more than 110,000 immigrants to the Dedicated Docket.  In Boston alone, the administration has assigned over 20,000 immigrants to the Docket, making Boston’s Dedicated Docket the largest in the country. As this report reveals, the proceedings for these thousands of immigrants are neither fair nor expeditious. The Docket as conceived and implemented undermines the ability of immigrant families and individuals to obtain immigration representation. The unpredictability of the timing of hearings for individuals on the Docket renders it exceedingly difficult for attorneys to take on Dedicated Docket cases. Further, individuals rarely have the means to pay for a private attorney, and pro bono organizations, including those that judges refer individuals to, are at capacity. As a result, many families have been forced to file asylum applications or proceed in their cases without a meaningful opportunity to access counsel, in violation of due process norms. Moreover, many pro se individuals (i.e., immigrants without an attorney) have failed to appear at their hearings due to confusion about the Docket, and, as a result, judges have ordered that these individuals be removed in absentia from the United States (i.e., when immigrants failed to appear at their hearings). In these ways and others, the Docket undermines core due process rights and fairness norms. Ultimately, these fast-tracked proceedings are in reality fast tracks back to immigrants’ home countries. Families assigned to the Boston Dedicated Docket have less access to counsel and are more likely to be deported. The Dedicated Docket’s shortcomings are not novel—indeed, the Obama and Trump administrations implemented similar fast-track removal programs. However, despite the fact that the flaws of such programs have been well documented, the current administration has failed to terminate the Dedicated Docket or implement measures to mitigate fundamental unfairness on the Docket. This report provides the first-ever in-depth analysis of the Boston Dedicated Docket."