Sessions limits ability of judges to dismiss deportation cases

Sessions limits ability of judges to dismiss deportation cases
© Greg Nash

Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsTrump: Sessions 'should be ashamed of himself' for allowing Russia probe to proceed Interior chief Zinke to leave administration Trump, Christie met to discuss chief of staff job: report MORE has placed new limits on U.S. immigration judges serving under the Department of Justice, prohibiting them from dismissing deportation cases except under "specific" circumstances.

Reuters reports that new guidelines implemented by the Justice Department this week state that judges can only dismiss immigration cases under “specific and circumscribed” conditions, such as when the government cannot prove its case or when the case involves “exceptionally appealing or humanitarian factors.”

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When a deportation case is dismissed, it does not grant legal immigration status. The Department of Homeland Security can re-file charges to attempt to spark deportation procedures, but the practice of dismissing cases has often given immigrants time to pursue different avenues of obtaining legal citizenship, according to Reuters.

A group representing immigration lawyers with cases before the Justice Department, the American Immigration Lawyers’ Association, slammed Sessions's latest decision as the latest move by the attorney general to undermine the independence of judges in the agency.

“The decision is the next step in a concerted effort by the A.G. to undermine judicial independence and to minimize the role of judges in immigration court,” said Kate Voigt, the group's associate director of government relations.

Immigration judges are members of the Department of Justice and fall under the authority of Sessions, which has allowed the attorney general to personally enforce changes to immigration case guidelines in an attempt to alleviate the backlog of immigration cases before the agency.

In a decision last month, Sessions mandated that immigration judges increase their daily caseload to a minimum of three hearings per day, a move that was criticized at the time as "micro-managing" the jobs of judges.

“Micro-managing our dockets from afar does not help us to do our job more efficiently and effectively,” a spokeswoman for the National Association of Immigration Judges said at the time. “It hinders us.”

The Trump administration has faced sharp criticism over the past several months for the administration's previous "zero tolerance" immigration policy, which mandated that any immigrant suspected of illegal entry be prosecuted immediately.

The practice led to the forced separation of hundreds of families before the president was forced to halt the separations by executive order amid severe backlash.