"Rocket Docket" for Undocumented Minors
As an influx of undocumented immigrant children enters the U.S., the city of Baltimore is in the spotlight. Attention on Baltimore results from the way in which they are approaching unaccompanied-minor cases. The city is expediting these cases so rapidly, the approach has garnered the name “Rocket Docket.” This removal style was applied in response to President Obama’s directive to fast-track these cases. As a result, these minors have roughly 21 days to retain an attorney, which directly relates to an individual’s success in avoiding deportation. According to the Transnational Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), 47.5 percent of undocumented minors with legal counsel are granted the right to stay in the United States at their removal hearing whereas nine out of 10 children without an attorney are deported. However, there is no indication from this study how many children out of 10 appear for their hearing if they do not retain an attorney. A failure to appear for removal proceedings results in an automatic removal “in absentia.” Despite that unknown statistic, it is important to note that if these undocumented immigrant children do indeed retain an attorney, they are almost certain to appear for their hearing. It is likely that a “Rocket docket” style removal program is actually reducing the amount of unaccompanied children that end up appearing for their hearings because they have not been afforded time to find an attorney and an opportunity to understand both the legal implications of their entry and legal protections available to them.
When weighing public support of this tactic directed by the president, roughly half of Americans support the speeding up of removal in these types of cases, 47% Democrats support while 60% of Republicans support the measures. It is unlikely, however, that both party members in support of this rapid process have taken into account that “Rocket Docket” removal actually discourages minors from appearing for their cases altogether, a situation that does not seem to solve any problems that the rocket docket style attempts to address. This style of removal serves no purpose but to appear as if the influx problem is being dealt with, but in reality the problem is being swept under the rug.