The U.S. Justice Department has rescinded the Obama administration’s policy of speeding up hearings and deportations of families and children seeking refuge in the U.S., a move applauded by immigration advocates who had called the practice unfair and ineffective, reports the New York Times. The expedited hearings were started in 2014 to deal with increasing numbers of people fleeing Central America, in hopes of deterring additional migration. The policy was largely viewed as a failure, as even more people from the region sought relief in the past two years than in 2014.
The reversal was a rare occasion for advocates to cheer the Trump administration after two weeks of moves they criticized. “This is a good thing,” said Bryan Johnson, an immigration lawyer in New York. “They are going back to common sense.” The reversal, explained in a memo from chief immigration judge MaryBeth Keller, said the change would let the courts focus more on immigrants in detention centers who are awaiting deportation hearings, a costly population and a higher priority for the government. Families and children applying for asylum are usually not detained while their cases are being considered. While they applauded the change in policy, some immigration advocates also interpreted it as a bid to clear the dockets for an anticipated increase in deportations under President Trump, who has promised a more restrictive approach to immigration.