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January 20, 2022

ABA testifies in favor of independent immigration court system

WASHINGTON, Jan. 20, 2022 – A leader of the American Bar Association testified before Congress today to support the creation of an independent immigration court system, moving the courts and judges away from their current position within the U.S. Justice Department.

Karen T. Grisez, former chair of the ABA Commission on Immigration, testified on behalf of the ABA before the Immigration and Citizenship Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee. Grisez is pro bono counsel with the law firm of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP in Washington, D.C.

In written testimony, Grisez said U.S. immigration courts will not be truly independent until they are removed from the Justice Department. Under the current system, she said, immigration judges have no statutory protection against removal without cause by the U.S. attorney general or reassignment to less-desirable venues. Also, she said, the attorney general can refer cases to himself for consideration, essentially acting as chief judge.

“All of these factors undermine public confidence in the impartiality of immigration judges… As currently constituted, the immigration courts lack many of the basic structural and procedural safeguards necessary to ensure due process and fair and impartial adjudications,” Grisez said.

Grisez also criticized the U.S. Executive Office for Immigration Review for providing inadequate due process protections in the immigration courts. “Although the immigration courts provide some of the elements of due process under the current system, they fall short of providing full and fair hearings in too many cases,” she said.

The congressional hearing also included testimony by Judge Mimi Tsankov, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges; Elizabeth Stevens on behalf of the Federal Bar Association and Andrew Arthur, a resident fellow with the Center for Immigration Studies.

To read Grisez’s full written testimony and to watch video of the subcommittee hearing, click here. To read the most recent report by the ABA Commission on Immigration on the need for immigration reform, click here.


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