We are kicking off the new year with great news: the U.S. Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) and U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have responded to KIND’s calls to issue a directive that all courts shall create specialized children’s dockets in immigration court.
KIND has long advocated for EOIR and DHS to expand this program and add children’s dockets within all immigration courts for dedicated handling of unaccompanied children’s cases. On December 21, 2023, in a critical step towards strengthening the fairness of immigration court for children, EOIR released a new Director’s Memo on Children’s Cases in Immigration Court. The memo requires courts to have a specialized juvenile docket for cases to be held separate from adult cases. These dockets will be overseen by dedicated judges who will have ongoing training. The memo lays out certain child-friendly practices the courts should adopt, protocols for better identifying and mitigating child trafficking/exploitation, and establishes procedures anticipated to streamline immigration judges’ dockets. The DHS released this statement about the new children’s court development and is making a commitment to have dedicated staff for these dockets and easy means of communication regarding cases.
This development comes just weeks after the introduction of the bipartisan Children’s Court Act in Congress, which would strengthen due process for children and streamline the court’s operations by requiring specially trained personnel to handle children’s cases, child-appropriate adjudications, and coordination with legal services organizations. KIND welcomes this critical step of the Biden Administration which reflects meaningful progress in moving towards a separate, child-appropriate structure for unaccompanied children’s immigration proceedings. Congress is already poised to pass legislation to codify and make permanent these protections for children. KIND’s policy team will continue to partner with EOIR to ensure these plans are finalized. We will also monitor and support implementation of the children’s court dockets in the individual courts.