African Human Rights Coalition as signed on with 106 other organizations to a letter calling on the Biden administration, addressed to Merrick Garland, Attorney General at Department of Justice, et al, to note the grave concerns and calling for the an end to the Dedicated Docket:
I. Due Process Failures on the Dedicated Docket A. Lack of Access to Legal Representation Legal representation is crucial.2 Yet most respondents on the Dedicated Docket lack access to counsel. This should come as no surprise. In June 2021, legal service providers and allied organizations from the initial ten cities designated for a Docket shared “unequivocally that the capacity to provide pro bono legal services in each of these cities is already unable to keep up with the demand for legal services from people facing removal hearings and unable to secure representation from the private bar.”3 They warned that adding a fast-track docket would only worsen the already significant barriers to legal representation in removal proceedings.4 Our experience this past year has borne out that fact: the vast majority of people we have observed on the Docket lack legal representation. This aligns with data released in January 2022 by the Transactional Research Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), finding only 15.5% of asylum seekers assigned to the Docket nationwide had counsel,5 and Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) data showing a representation rate of 51% by July of this year, with over 20,000 pending cases still lacking counsel. 6 Below, we describe in more detail why non-profit organizations, law school clinics, and the private bar are unable to meet the need for representation on the docket, particularly in the context of expedited timelines and the COVID-19 pandemic. We also show how notarios are coming in to fill the gap in some cities, leading to adverse outcomes for families on the docket. 1. Non-profit organizations and law school clinics Many non-profit organizations and law school clinics that provide pro bono legal services, already struggling to serve the many people moving forward unrepresented in removal proceedings, are unable to assist families seeking asylum in their complex and fast-tracked cases on the Dedicated Docket. Examples from the various cities provide a window into this struggle: In Boston, one legal service provider reported that they completed over 30 intakes for those on the Dedicated Docket, but they had the capacity to provide representation in only one of those cases. In San Francisco, on average, pro se respondents on the Docket receive continuances of about 6-8 weeks until their next master calendar hearings. But non-profit organizations will often schedule consultations months out, which means they show up to their following hearings without having consulted with an attorney. In any event, securing an intake does not
READ FULL LETTER AND SEE SIGNATORIES HERE.