Trump Administration imposes quotas on immigration judges

Aaron Brown
April 6, 2018

According to new Justice Department rules, judges will have to clear at least 700 cases a year in order to receive a "satisfactory" annual review.

Why it matters: The new quotas, detailed in a memo sent to immigration judges on Friday, are part of a wider effort to speed up deportation decisions and reduce a hefty backlog of more than 600,000 cases that are pending before the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR). According to the standards, a judge who decides between 560 and 700 cases a year "needs improvement" and a judge who makes fewer than 560 cases gets an unsatisfactory mark.

USA immigration judges have been told that their job performance will be evaluated based on how quickly they are able to close cases. If they are in some sense "judged" by the number of cases they finish, then the temptation will be to rush through more cases without giving immigration defendants a fair shot.

"For years, the immigration court system has been strained past the breaking point, too often denying immigrants, even children, a fair chance to present their claims", said Jeremy McKinney, AILA Secretary.

Sessions has made immigration proceedings a priority as attorney general.

The Wall Street Journal reports that The Justice Department plans to evaluate judges' job performance by how quickly they close cases, with the explicit intention of speeding up deportation decisions.

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A Justice Department source told CNN last week that Attorney General Jeff Sessions was "done" seeing the department criticized for the Federal Bureau of Investigation "slow-walking" requests from Congress. "This push to compel judges to complete cases is new and risky and is the latest example of why the courts need independence".

"The big takeaway is that this is the equivalent of completing three cases a day, so it's not that big of a lift", O'Malley said, in an interview.

It added that due process could not be "meted out on a schedule, but requires judges to use their expertise on a case-by-case basis to move cases as fairly and efficiently as possible".

Also, the document includes other criteria such as the "penalty of those who refer more than 15% of certain cases to higher courts, or judges who schedule hearing dates far apart on their calendar", which would put at risk even the lives of those who, for example, are applying for asylum and their lives are in danger if they are returned to their country of origin.

Laura Lynch, senior policy counsel for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said immigration attorneys were deeply concerned that cases will be "rushed through".

One judge named A. Ashley Tabaddor, who is president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, spoke out about the potential side effects of Sessions' new quota system.

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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