AG Sessions, Immigration Advocates Agree On Judges

AP, Politico online report, April 2017

AP, Politico online report, April 2017

Politico is among the media outlets noting that, “… for all their opposition to the Trump administration’s immigration agenda,” immigration advocates are welcoming at least one part of the agenda: hiring more immigration judges. In a well-reported story, Politico’s Danny Vinik added that U.S. Attorney General Sessions “… announced that DOJ will seek to add 75 immigration judges to the courts over the next year and will implement reforms to speed up the hiring process. These changes address a real problem with the immigration system—a nearly 600,000-case backlog at the immigration courts—and the move was a rare occasion in which advocates applauded the administration, though they were concerned how Sessions would implement the changes.”

Later, Vinik even deep-dives enough to background that “…immigration judges are technically employees of the Department of Justice, a structure that inherently creates a conflict of interest,since their job is to rule on immigration cases that are pushed by DOJ prosecutors, whereas most of the judiciary is independent. Advocates and the immigration judges union have long pushed to remove the immigration courts from the DOJ. And during the Bush administration, a DOJ investigation found that several immigration judges received their jobs due to their political connections, a scandal that serves as a warning today.”

During comments at the U.S.-Mexican border, Sessions also announced a “streamlined” hiring process for those DOJ judges.

Read the story here:

Help U.S. In War? Forget It When Seeking Asylum

Image Credit, New York Times Report, 4/2/16

Image Credit, New York Times Report, 4/2/16

The New York Times has an important story about an asylum-seeker who worked with the American military in Kabul for years, enough to fear for his life. He made his way to the United States and sought asylum, making a case complete with death threats and the testimony of American military officers. Yet he was jailed for his trouble.

Reporter Elizabeth Rubin, who has reported from the Middle East and credits translators like the one in question for saving her life, outlines just how sad the immigration/asylum system has become. She notes that “… we know our asylum policy is broken. In 2014, more than 108,000 asylum applications were filed. It is not an exaggeration to say that many of these cases are life or death, yet they are handled by only 254 immigration judges, who are also juggling hundreds of thousands of non-asylum cases. Samey’s case is simultaneously unique and painfully common…”

She offers examples of possible fixes. But she also outlines a truly cautionary tale of a system where a state department administrative judge somehow values his own assessment over that of a Lt. Col. in the U.S. military.

Read it here:

Locked Up for Seeking Asylum

Thousands Of Immigration Cases Delayed Until At Least 2019

The Dallas Morning News is reporting that “… thousands of immigrants seeking legalization through the U.S. court system have had their hearings canceled and are being told by the government that it may be 2019 or later before their futures are resolved.” The paper says that “… immigration lawyers in cities that absorbed a large share of those cases, including New York, San Antonio, Los Angeles and Denver, say they’ve had hearings canceled with little notice and received no new court dates. Work permits, green cards, asylum claims, and family reunifications hang in the balance.”
By way of background, the cancellations began began to skyrocket over the summer as the Justice Department prioritized the tens of thousands of Central American migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, most of them mothers with children and the high-profile arrival of unaccompanied minors.
The Dallas newspaper report quotes David Martin, a law professor at the University of Virginia who worked for two Democratic presidents, who “criticized Congress and the Obama administration for not funding more immigration judges.” He also told the paper that “… you fund more investigators, more detention space, more border patrol, almost all of these are going to produce some kind of immigration court case… you are putting a lot more people into the system. It’s just going to be a big bottleneck unless you increase the size of that pipeline.” Read the story here.