Sessions curbs authority of immigration judges with policy change

Sessions curbs authority of immigration judges with policy change
© Greg Nash

Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsRosenstein faces Trump showdown Solicitor general could take over Mueller probe if Rosenstein exits 13 states accepted Sessions invitation to meeting on social media bias: report MORE on Thursday issued a directive ending a common tactic used by immigration judges to pause or suspend cases before them while waiting for new evidence.

The New York Times reports that Sessions issued a directive ending the power of immigration judges to put a case on hold using administrative cloture, which judges have used in the past to suspend cases for immigrants awaiting a visa application or the appeal of their criminal conviction.

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Sessions blames the process for allowing immigrants without legal status to remain in the U.S. indefinitely while judges leave their cases on pause.

Immigration judges “do not have the general authority to suspend indefinitely immigration proceedings by administrative closure,” Sessions wrote in the order, according to the Times.

Putting the cases on hold has “effectively resulted in illegal aliens remaining indefinitely in the United States without any formal legal status," he added.

The move could reopen hundreds of thousands of cases, but according to the Times will likely not reopen cases already closed under administrative cloture. Sessions wrote in his directive that such a change would overwhelm the administration's already-backlogged immigration case system.

“Requiring recalendaring of all of these cases immediately, however, would likely overwhelm the immigration courts and undercut the efficient administration of immigration law,” he said.

Benjamin Johnson, the executive director of the immigration lawyers association, told the Times that Sessions's order would erode the rights of judges to make their own independent decisions.

“Due process demands that we maintain an immigration court system with independent judges who have the authority and flexibility to make decisions,” Johnson said.