Immigration Judges Want Freedom in ‘New and Dark Era’

“The only durable solution is to get the court away from the Justice Department,” says Ashley Tabaddor of Los Angeles, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges. The 395 immigration judges now report to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The president of the National Association of Immigration Judges asked Congress to emancipate the judges from the Justice Department, saying immigration courts are entering a “new and dark era” under the nation’s top prosecutor, the Washington Post reports. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is rapidly hiring immigration judges and pressuring them to decide cases faster, imposing production quotas for the first time. Starting Oct. 1, judges must complete 700 cases a year. “The only durable solution is to get the court away from the Justice Department,” Ashley Tabaddor, a Los Angeles immigration judge and the association’s president, told the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Friday. “Let it be a real court. Let it be real judges, so that we can do what we’re supposed to do.”

Unlike the judicial branch of government, the 61 federal immigration courts are located in the executive branch and report to the attorney general. The immigration judges would like Congress to make immigration an independent court similar to the U.S. Tax Court. The union wants a new system of immigration appeals and trial-level judges. The appeals judges would be named by the president and confirmed by the Senate. The appellate judges would name the trial judges. Immigration judges say a shift is urgently needed because Trump administration officials are undermining judicial independence and immigrants’ rights to a fair hearing. In August, the union filed a grievance after a Philadelphia immigration judge said his ­supervisor removed him from dozens of deportation cases after he questioned whether a defendant was given fair notice of a hearing. The Trump administration says it “has been clear that the proper home for the immigration court system is with the [Justice] Department.” The courts have 395 immigration judges, the highest number in history and an increase of 30 percent since President Trump took office.