The idea of an independent immigration court has percolated for years. It always struck me (and many others) as unusual and rather senseless to have immigration judges be overseen by the Department of Justice and the Attorney General. It’s not as though immigration judges are supposed to be prosecutors, right? They are supposed to be neutral arbiters of immigration proceedings.
Unfortunately, AG Jeff Sessions seems to view judges as puppets and himself as the puppet master.
In decision after decision, the AG has tipped the scales of justice by demanding immigration judges do things his way—not using discretion about what’s best for managing their dockets, not what’s most efficient, but what puts the most people into the deportation machine and churns out final orders more quickly.
Don’t believe me?
Well, today is a perfect example of how the AG has undermined the integrity of our judicial system. On October 1, the immigration courts officially become assembly lines as immigration judges are forced to choose job security or justice. Churn through at least 700 cases a year on your already crowded docket, rush through asylum and other proceedings that need careful consideration, or risk losing your job.
Ashley Tabaddor, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, spoke to the Mercury News about the quotas:
“Calling the policy ‘indefensible and unreasonable,’ Judge Ashley Tabaddor said the quota will take a significant psychological toll on judges and will compromise their judicial values, forcing them to rule on some cases in just a few hours. ‘It’s something that would never, never be tolerated in any other court…It pits the judge’s personal interest against that of the parties before them. And that is in violation of every principle that we have when it comes to our court system and our American judicial system.’”
“’We have quotas and deadlines, we have judges being removed from cases because the Justice Department is not happy with the decisions that they’re making… That kind of interference with the decision-making authority of the judges is frankly unprecedented,’ she said.”
AILA, the National Association of Immigration Judges (NAIJ), the American Bar Association (ABA), and other stakeholders have all denounced these quotas and urged Congress to establish an independent Article 1 court for immigration proceedings. AILA’s Board of Governors even took the unprecedented step of passing a resolution supporting the establishment of an independent judiciary. It reads, “In its current state, the immigration court system requires a complete structural overhaul to address several fundamental problems. AILA recommends that Congress create an independent immigration court system in the form of an Article I court, modeled after the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. Such an entity would protect and advance America’s core values of fairness and equality by safeguarding the independence and impartiality of the immigration court system.”
As Judge Tabaddor said, “This design flaw, this fundamental defect of having our immigration court in the Justice Department, headed by a top federal prosecutor, needs to come out and needs to be corrected.”
No argument here Judge Tabaddor.
This has to be fixed. That’s why today, over 1,000 AILA members signed a petition calling for an independent Article 1 immigration court.
Here are some additional ways you can get involved: Share resources about this important issue and what needs to be done on social media and tell your Congressional delegation via email, phone, and in-person that an independent judiciary is necessary.
Due process isn’t done on an assembly line. Justice cannot triumph if rushing to judgment is a requirement to keep one’s job. Immigrants and America deserve better than this.