Biden administration plans to speed up court cases for recent migrant arrivals

The Biden administration plans to speed up court cases for some recently arrived migrants who are seeking asylum, marking the latest move to address arrivals at the US-Mexico border, according to senior administration officials.

The Department of Homeland Security and Justice Department announced Thursday a new court docket targeting migrants who have unlawfully crossed the US southern border. Migrants placed on the docket will have their cases resolved within 180 days —cutting the process down by months, if not years.

The new docket applies to single adults who are released from government custody and headed to one of five destination cities: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City.

“Today, we are instituting with the Department of Justice a process to accelerate asylum proceedings so that individuals who do not qualify for relief can be removed more quickly and those who do qualify can achieve protection sooner,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement.

“This administrative step is no substitute for the sweeping and much-needed changes that the bipartisan Senate bill would deliver,” Mayorkas added, referring to a border security deal that Senate Republicans blocked earlier this year. “But in the absence of Congressional action we will do what we can to most effectively enforce the law and discourage irregular migration.”

Thursday’s announcement is reminiscent of a similar move targeting migrant families in 2021 — and previous attempts to quickly hear cases under the Obama and Trump administrations. Immigrant advocates and attorneys have previously raised concerns over rushing asylum cases and undermining due process.

“In general, we do view the dedicated docket as having achieved its objective of getting people through the immigration court process much faster than we would normally get people through the process,” a senior administration official told reporters Thursday, acknowledging that deporting individuals if ordered to be removed has been challenging given resource constraints.

Immigrants fighting deportation generally have a chance to make their case in court, where they can ask a judge to allow them to stay in the US by arguing they qualify for asylum or another legal option. Cases can often take years because of an immigration court backlog, prompting the effort to set up a process intended to expeditiously work through cases.

The immigration court backlog exceeds 3 million pending cases, according to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse or TRAC, which tracks immigration court data.

Around 10 immigration judges have been assigned to start working on these dockets, as soon as this week, according to another administration official.

“We’ve identified judges who have availability to manage to do these and manage along with all the existing work that they’re doing,” the senior administration official said. “As conditions merit, we’ll adjust as is necessary.”

For more CNN news and newsletters create an account at