Newly Arrived Migrant Families To Have Asylum Cases Heard Within 300 Days: Biden Administration

The Biden administration announced Friday a new plan that would fast-track cases of families at the U.S.-Mexico border in immigration court, with judges reaching a decision within 300 days of an initial hearing.

The Departments of Justice and Homeland Security said in a statement that the expedited immigration court dockets would be established in 10 cities including New York, Los Angeles, San Diego and El Paso, Texas.

The announcement comes less than two weeks after the Biden administration said it was lifting pandemic-related restrictions on seeking asylum, which were implemented by the Trump administration in March 2020. Those restrictions typically had citizens of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Savador expelled to Mexico within two hours and without the opportunity to seek any form of humanitarian protection.

"The mission of the Department of Justice's immigration courts is to decide the cases that come before them promptly and fairly," Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said in the statement. "This new program for certain newly arriving families will help achieve that critically important goal."

The plan announced on Friday would give higher priority to families currently at the border over other cases in immigration court, which currently has about 1.3 million pending cases.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Migrant families at Mexico border
SAN LUIS, AZ - MAY 21: Migrants attempting to cross in to the U.S. from Mexico are detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the border May 21, 2021 in San Luis, Arizona. Nick Ut/Getty Images

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 administration previously created a docket aimed at quickly deciding these cases in the immigration courts, which are notoriously backlogged and can take years to resolve cases.

Biden exempted unaccompanied children but about one of every three people who arrive in families are still subject to them, as is nearly every single adult. Last week, the administration took steps to ease the rules and agreed to eventually allow 250 people a day through border crossings to seek refuge in the United States.

The Border Patrol had more than 170,000 encounters in April, its highest tally since March 2001, including 50,000 with people traveling in families. Many are repeat crossers because getting expelled carries no legal consequences.

"Families arriving at the border who are placed in immigration proceedings should have their cases decided in an orderly, efficient, and fair manner," said Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. "Families who have recently arrived should not languish in a multi-year backlog."

In addition to New York, Los Angeles, San Diego and El Paso, the docket is being introduced in Denver; Detroit; Miami, Newark, New Jersey; San Francisco; and Seattle.

Migrant families at U.S. border
SAN LUIS, AZ - MAY 21: Migrants attempting to cross in to the U.S. from Mexico are detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the border May 21, 2021 in San Luis, Arizona. Nick Ut/Getty Images