Justice criticized for turning immigration judges into ‘assembly-line workers’


A spokeswoman for the National Association of Immigration Judges says that Attorney General Jeff Sessions is turning them into “assembly-line workers” with a set of proposed quotas aimed at reducing the massive backlog of cases.

“That is a huge, huge, huge encroachment on judicial independence,” spokeswoman Dana Leigh Marks, a former president of the association, told The Washington Post. “It’s trying to turn immigration judges into assembly-line workers.”

Separately, the director of governmental relations for the American Immigration Lawyers Association told the Post that the Justice Department was trying to “undermine” judges’ ability to make “careful, well thought-out decisions.”

“People’s lives are at risk in immigration court cases, and to force judges to complete cases under a rapid time frame is going to undermine the ability of those judges to make careful, well thought-out decisions,” said Gregory Chen, the official from the group.

Right now, the backlog of immigration cases stands around 600,000. The Trump administration said it is working to address that caseload with “additional benchmarks” for immigration courts.

“For years, the immigration court system has failed to address systemic issues that add unnecessary time to a respondent’s case and put undue stress on the pending caseload. Every adjudicatory system has goals, benchmarks, or metrics to ensure that cases are handled in an efficient, timely manner that does not compromise due process,” said Devin O’Malley, a DOJ spokesman.

“The Executive Office for Immigration Review already has numerous case completion goals imposed by statute or Congressional recommendation, and is developing additional benchmarks for immigration courts to assist in properly managing cases, increase productivity, and reduce the pending caseload.”

According to documents obtained by the Post, the Justice Department “intends to implement numeric performance standards to evaluate Judge performance.” Immigration groups say this will put an emphasis on speed rather than fairness in immigration cases.

“Immigration judges should have one goal and that goal should be the fair adjudication of cases,” the director of policy at the National Immigrant Justice Center told the Post. “That’s the only metric that should count.”

In a press release Friday, the American Civil Liberties Union blasted the proposed policy as an attempt at “stacking the deck” against immigrants.

“Many immigrants fighting their deportation have the right to remain in the United States,” the group wrote. “The attorney general is stacking the deck unfairly against them. We urge the Department of Justice to reverse course immediately and allow immigration judges to do their jobs without interference.”

– This story was updated on Oct. 17.

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