October 17, 2017

Statement of ABA President Hilarie Bass Re: Mandatory case completion quotas for immigration judges

WASHINGTON, Oct. 16, 2017 – The American Bar Association strongly disagrees with any attempt to establish mandatory case completion quotas for immigration judges.

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.

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, as Attorney General Jeff Sessions has suggested. 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 this increased need for resources.

Many immigration judges have more than 2,000 cases currently on their docket and are scheduling cases as far into the future at 2022. By providing advice and helping clients file complicated applications for relief, immigration lawyers make the process both fairer and more efficient.

Instead of seeking to expedite cases in a manner that will undermine both the independence of immigration judges and the public’s confidence in the adjudicatory process, the Administration needs to provide significantly increased resources – including additional immigration judges and support personnel – for our immigration courts and support measures that increase access to counsel.

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. This can and has led to a public backlash against the applicants, their lawyers and the lawyers who hear their cases, which is unjust and un-American.

The best way to protect our borders and uphold justice is by fixing our immigration system while providing proper funding and adequate resources.

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