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Immigration Lawyers Group Seeks Rules for Immigration Rocket Docket Program

In a lawsuit filed against the Justice Department and the Executive Office for Immigration Review, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) slammed the DOJ for giving immigrant families and children a difficult time avoiding deportation by withholding public access to its policies for priority immigration docketing.

The AILA, as well as three other legal groups fighting for immigrants rights, sued the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) and the Justice Department for failing to respond to a request for access to polices governing a new “rocket docket” immigration program. The plaintiffs are claiming a violation of the Freedom of Information Act.

Not Enough Information to Understand Rocket Docket

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, the lead plaintiff of the lawsuit, pointed out that the lack of information on the new immigration program makes it hard even for lawyers to understand the system, much less newly arrived immigrants. In their complaint, the civil rights group said that lawyers, as well as unrepresented adults and children, are struggling to prepare for expedited cases involving processes with no clear policies—the same policies in the plaintiffs’ request under the Freedom of Information Act.

The EOIR has often been the subject of criticism, with civil groups accusing the office of abandoning their duties, issuing sweeping denials of asylum to people from allied countries of the United States, such as Mexico, Guatemala, and El Salvador, but allowing asylum to people from “enemy” nations like Cuba.

History of FOIA Requests

Members of the plaintiff group first submitted their FOIA request for access to the procedures, guidelines, and standards of the rocket docket system on August 2014, filing another request on August 2015 after receiving no response. The Justice Department finally provided some information on November 2015, releasing charts showing the locations of immigration courts that oversee expedited dockets. The attorneys, however, said the information was but a fraction of what they had requested to resolve their concerns on the rocket docket process.

Sufficient information is especially important, they pointed out, because asylum applicants and immigrants often receive conflicting, and sometimes even erroneous information on the number of continuances to find lawyers for their cases.

According to an immigration study by Syracuse University, immigrant women and children in the rocket docket program who have lawyers to represent them were fourteen times more likely to be able to stay in the United States.

The plaintiffs’ complaint emphasized how the compressed timeline for immigration cases of adults with children on the rocket docket, combined with the program’s lack of clear policies, has had a dramatic impact on ensuring the safety of immigrants, forcing their return to countries where they face threats to their lives.

If you or anyone you know is facing problems with the expedited immigration docket program, know your legal options by consulting the legal expertise of Lyttle Law Firm. Learn more about your rights by visiting our website or calling our offices at 512-215-5225.

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