Justice Department told immigration judges to hold more hearings: report

Justice Department told immigration judges to hold more hearings: report
© Greg Nash

The Justice Department has instructed immigration judges to take on a higher daily caseload amid the agency's backlog of cases, according to a new report.

Sources familiar with immigration proceedings told BuzzFeed News that assistant chief immigration judges, who are employees of the Justice Department, have issued orders directing immigration judges to schedule three hearings a day, a move that immigrant advocates say could lead to more deportations.

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The directives have already been supplied to judges in cities such as San Francisco; Memphis; Arlington, Va.; and Dallas, according to the report, and are scheduled to go into effect on Oct. 1.

“The requirement of three merits hearings a day could do more to threaten the integrity of the court system than the 700-case-per-year requirement,” Sarah Pierce, a senior analyst at the Washington think tank Migration Policy Institute, told BuzzFeed.

“Requiring immigration judges to schedule three merits hearings a day assumes each case will be a similar or at least comparable length — and that's just not true," she added.

The Justice Department declined to comment on BuzzFeed's report in an email to The Hill.

A spokeswoman for the National Association of Immigration Judges said she could not confirm or deny the report when reached by BuzzFeed, but warned of the existing strain immigration judges already face.

“Micro-managing our dockets from afar does not help us to do our job more efficiently and effectively,” she told the news outlet. “It hinders us.”

The Trump administration has faced criticism from Democrats and Republicans over the "zero tolerance" immigration policy implemented by Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsHillicon Valley: Trump cyber strategy lets US go on offense | AT&T urges court to let Time Warner merger stand | Conservatives want wife of DOJ official to testify | Facebook, nonprofits team up to fight fake news | DC camera hacker pleads guilty Vote Democrat in midterms to rein in Trump, preserve justice Sessions limits ability of judges to dismiss deportation cases MORE earlier this year, which led to thousands of migrant children being forcibly separated from their parents as the adults awaited prosecution for illegally crossing the border. Trump halted the separation practice in June.

Administration officials have since struggled with a court order to complete the reunification of the hundreds of families that still remain separated, including some cases in which parents were deported while their children were left behind.