The ABA, responding to proposed reforms included in the Trump administration’s immigration principles and policies, is opposing any attempt to establish mandatory case completion quotas for immigration judges.
The Trump proposals, unveiled Oct. 8, include establishing “performance metrics for immigration judges” for ensuring swift border returns, and that idea was echoed a week later by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in an Oct. 16 speech to the Executive Office of Immigration Review.
“It is imperative that judges be allowed to adjudicate fairly, impartially, and with sufficient deliberation. Establishing performance metrics based solely on the number and speed of cases resolved undermines the independence of the judiciary and threatens to subvert justice,” ABA President Hilarie Bass emphasized in an Oct. 16 statement.
“The experience of immigration lawyers working daily within the system suggests that the estimated backlog of 600,000 immigration cases is not due to judges working inefficiently or immigration lawyers filing fraudulent claims,” Bass explained, addressing criticisms leveled by Sessions in his speech. Sessions implied in his remarks that the immigration adjudication system is being “gamed” by asylum seekers, and he warned of “dirty immigration lawyers.”
Bass emphasized that increased enforcement coupled with an unprecedented global refugee crisis, which has resulted in greater numbers of individuals seeking protection in the United States, has led to the increased need for resources. She explained that many immigration judges often have over 2,000 cases on their dockets and are scheduling cases into 2022. Immigration lawyers, she said, make the process both fairer and more efficient by providing advice and helping clients file complicated applications for relief.
“Blaming judges, immigration lawyers, and refugees fleeing persecution in their countries for problems in our immigration and asylum system only serves to demonize the people seeking a better life and those trying to administer justice equitably and efficiently,” she emphasized. The resulting public backlash against the applicants, their lawyers and the judges who hear their cases is “unjust and un-American,” she said.
Bass said the administration, instead of seeking to expedite cases in a manner that will undermine both the independence of immigration judges and public confidence in the system, needs to provide significantly increased resources – including additional immigration judges and support personnel − for the immigration courts and to support measures that increase access to counsel.