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David Leopold Responds to DOJ Imposed Quota for Immigration Judges

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Due process be damned.  Once again, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is using his position as the nation’s top law enforcement officer to implement the Trump Administration’s anti-immigrant political agenda.  The Washington Post reports:

The Trump administration will pressure U.S. immigration judges to process cases faster by establishing a quota system tied to their annual performance reviews, according to new Justice Department directives.

The judges will be expected to clear at least 700 cases a year to receive a “satisfactory” performance rating, a standard that their union called an “unprecedented” step that risks undermining judicial independence and opens the courts to potential challenges.

David Leopold, Partner/Chair, Immigration Practice Group, Ulmer & Berne LLP and former President, American Immigration Lawyers Association, said:

While ICE agents all across the U.S. dutifully execute Trump’s brutal anti-immigrant crackdown, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is turning the nation’s immigration courts into deportation assembly lines where asylum seekers, battered women, unaccompanied children and others seeking justice are processed for removal like cattle to the slaughter.

Leopold goes on to explain:

As Attorney General, Jeff Sessions has complete control over the immigration courts, including the power to impose his radical, anti-immigrant ideology. In 2002, when Congress created the Department of Homeland Security, it left the entire immigration court system — known as the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) — within the Department of Justice and under the direction and control of the Attorney General. The EOIR includes all of the immigration courts in the U.S. and the Board of Immigration Appeals, which reviews immigration judges’ deportation decisions. Sessions hires and trains the immigration judges. They act as his statutory agents, sometimes even more as prosecutors than as judges.

Perhaps most ominously, Sessions’ is set to brazenly use his sweeping power over the immigration courts to unilaterally change the law by overruling precedent decisions of the Board of Immigration Appeals. His decisions will directly impact the lives of immigrants, including victims of persecution, torture, domestic violence, and human trafficking.  With the stroke of a pen, Sessions can make asylum vastly more difficult for those around the world who flee to the United States to avoid violence, drastically altering the interpretation and administration of the immigration law to comport with his nativist, anti-immigrant vision.

Sessions is using his power over the immigration courts to review a number of precedent decisions which directly affect the rights of immigrants fleeing persecution and domestic violence.  To speed up the deportation process he’s setting performance quotas for immigration judges and limiting their authority in an obvious effort to force them to plow through complex immigration cases—many involving questions of life and death for immigrants facing deportation to a tyrannical regime, an abusive husband, or a country fraught with uncontrollable gang violence.

America deserves an immigration court system worthy of its proud tradition of fairness, justice and due process — not a Kangaroo Court designed to do little more than tag immigrants with administrative removal orders, so that ICE agents can handcuff and deport them without so much as a fair hearing.

As conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin points out, the move is also in line with Trump’s disrespect for the judicial branch generally.

Ian Bassin, executive director of Protect Democracy, a nonprofit group that litigates executive-branch overreach, tells me, “Trump likes to talk about due process when it involves himself and his friends. But due process matters most to the least powerful and most marginalized communities in our country.” He continues, “Like Trump’s attacks on independent law enforcement and the federal judiciary, this action is yet another sign of an Administration that, when it comes to due process, just can’t seem to remember the golden rule.” (His group has a handy tracker of President Trump’s attacks on the courts.)

Recently, HBO’s John Oliver did a takedown (or is it a send-up) of the current immigration court system and Sessions’ plans to gut it even further – a bit that would be funny if it wasn’t so serious.  Watch here.