03 April 2018

US immigration judges under pressure

New Quotas are to be set for US immigration judges as the Trump Administration pushes for faster deportations.

The Wall Street Journal attained a memo from the Justice Department announcing that immigration judges’ job performance will be evaluated according to how quickly they close cases. The memo from the Executive Office of Immigration Review, Director James McHenry told judges the quotas take effect on 1 October, the beginning of the federal government’s next fiscal year. The purpose is to promote 'efficient and effective case management while preserving immigration judge discretion and due process,' Mr McHenry wrote.

Conflict of interests

The new standards mean that judges will be rated 'satisfactory' if they complete 700 cases a year, and send fewer than 15 per cent of their cases back to the Board of Immigration Appeals or the federal appeals courts. Judge Ashley Tabaddor, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, told Wall Street Journal quotas are 'an egregious example of the conflict of interests of having the immigration court in a law enforcement agency.' She says it is possible that judges will be accused of making decisions to keep their jobs, rather than making legally correct decisions.

A decade of backlogs

The memo adds to Justice Department ongoing pressure on immigration judges to clear the immigration court system’s lengthy case backlog. The immigration courts have had a backlog for most of the past decade, due to more investment in enforcement than in adjudication. As of the end of February, the backlog stood at 684,583 pending cases according to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, which studies data from Freedom of Information Act requests. Source: Wall Street Journal