April 01, 2022

Warren, Markey, Colleagues Call for End of Dedicated-Docket Process in Immigration Court that Harms Asylum Seekers

Senators: “Nearly 85 percent of asylum seekers on the expedited docket have been forced to navigate complex proceedings in immigration court without legal representation”

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, D.C. – United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) sent a letter to the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), raising concerns about the dedicated-docket process in immigration court, and called on the Biden administration to halt the process until its shortcomings are addressed. The dedicated docket has overwhelmed immigration courts in participating cities and has given rise to serious questions about due process and fairness for asylum seekers who appear before dedicated-docket courts, with most cases resulting in deportation. The senators are calling on DOJ and DHS to halt the dedicated-docket process in immigration court and are asking for responses to a set of questions about the process. 

“The dedicated docket is siphoning resources, time, and attention from cases not on it, making the backlog worse instead of better. Currently, there are more than 660,000 pending asylum cases outside the dedicated docket, with average processing times of more than four years” wrote the senators. “We are highly concerned that the dedicated docket is having the unintended consequence of prioritizing expediency over due process and fairness. Citizens, residents, and noncitizens alike should have access to full and fair hearings when they are entitled to them.”

The senators expressed their deep concerns about the dedicated-docket process in immigration courts. Nearly 85% of asylum seekers appearing before these courts do not have legal representation, and the vast majority of people who appear before these courts are deported. Additionally, the dedicated docket vastly increases immigration court backlogs. Respondents in cases on both the dedicated docket and the regular docket often are ordered to appear in court virtually and before judges from outside the designated-docket jurisdiction due to  these backlogs. 

Senator Warren and her colleagues are calling on DOJ and DHS to halt the dedicated-docket process until it can be improved, and are asking the agencies to answer a set of questions about its plans to improve the program by April 20, 2022.

Senator Warren has led ongoing efforts to protect the rights of migrants and asylum seekers and to reform the immigration court system.

  • In May 2021, Senator Warren joined a letter with Senator Markey to the Executive Office for Immigration Review expressing concerns over unsafe operations at the Boston Immigration Court during the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • In March 2021, Senator Warren led a letter with Senator Gillibrand to DOJ in support of a variety of measures needed to reform the immigration court system. 
  • In March 2020, Senator Warren led a letter urging the Trump administration to suspend all immigration enforcement actions in and around hospitals and other medical facilities at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • In March 2020, Senator Warren sent a letter with Senator Markey raising concerns about DOJ’s handling of COVID-19 prevention efforts in the immigration courts. Senator Warren later urged DOJ to close all immigration courts to prevent the spread of the virus. 
  • Earlier in March 2020, Senator Warren led a letter to DOJ and DHS raising concerns about the lack of access to appropriate legal services and lack of transparency at DHS-operated “tent courts” at the U.S.-Mexico border.