Attorney General Jeff Sessions has the power to overturn rulings of immigration judges, who work for the Justice Department. He may end a practice called “administrative closure,” which would speed deportations.
The Trump administration has been trying to ramp up deportations of immigrants in the U.S. illegally, but immigration judges often put these cases on hold. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is considering overruling the judges, reports NPR. One practice that infuriates Sessions and other immigration hardliners is called administrative closure. It allows judges to put deportation proceedings on hold indefinitely. “Basically they have legalized the person who was coming to court, because they were illegally in the country,” Sessions says. Sessions is using his authority over the immigration court system to review a number of judicial decisions. If he overturns those decisions, thousands of other cases could be affected. He is expected to end administrative closure, or scale it back.
The attorney general may limit when judges can grant continuances and who qualifies for asylum in the U.S. This could reshape immigration courts, which are overseen by the Justice Department, and make them move faster. Sessions says he is trying to clear a massive backlog of cases that is clogging the docket. Critics say he is weighing changes that would threaten the due process rights of immigrants, and the integrity of immigration courts. “What he wants is an immigration court system which is rapid, and leads to lots of deportations,” said Nancy Morawetz, who teaches the Immigrant Rights Clinic at New York University School of Law. “It’s really just an unprecedented move by the attorney general to change the way the whole system works.”It’s rare for an attorney general to exercise this power, but Sessions has done it four times in the past three months. For the first time, the Justice Department is setting quotas for immigration judges, pushing them to resolve cases quickly in order to meet performance standards.