Sessions challenges administrative loophole in immigration court cases

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has launched a review of a technique used by immigration judges to allow undocumented immigrants to stay in the country without closing their cases, The Associated Press reported.

On Friday, Sessions launched a review of the use of "administrative closures," a tactic immigration judges can use to allow an immigrant to be shielded from deportation while their petitions are reviewed by immigration personnel. Critics of the provision say it allows judges to let immigrants stay longer than they should in legal limbo.

Sessions intervened Friday in the case of Reynaldo Castro-Tum, who arrived from Guatemala as a child in 2014. Sessions asked what authority judges have to issue administrative closures and whether he should end the process altogether. The rule change is now subject to public comment before Sessions makes his final decision.

The decision to review the procedure could potentially reopen 350,000 cases that are currently closed due to the practice, according to the AP. The Justice Department told the news service that 180,000 cases were closed in four years of the Obama administration, which was more than during the previous 22 years.  

In a memo this week to immigration judges, Sessions said the decision was meant to speed up the department and do away with the illusion that the Justice Department is buried under an unending backlog of immigration cases. The Justice Department currently reports a backlog of about 650,000 cases.

"While we continue to hire additional immigration judges and support personnel to address these challenges, we must all work to identify and adopt - consistent with the law - additional procedures and techniques that will increase efficiencies, and ensure the timely and proper administration of justice," Sessions wrote.