Attorney General Jeff Sessions this month ordered immigration judges to accelerate deportation cases to relieve a massive backlog. The interim order, issued on Aug. 16, directed immigration court judges to postpone deportation proceedings only in cases where the person was likely to succeed in efforts to remain in the United States by applying for asylum or receiving a visa or work permit. He argued the new policy—only allowing judges to grant continuances in limited cases—would bring about “expeditious enforcement of the immigration laws,” Reuters reported.
Earlier this year, the Justice Department, which oversees immigration courts, said the Executive Office for Immigration Review’s caseload doubled between 2011 and 2017 to more than 650,000 outstanding cases as of December 2017. “Prosecutorial Discretion,” an Obama-era policy of allowing judges discretion in whom they prosecute, “incentivized further illegal immigration” and led to new cases, the DOJ said in a news release. It also blamed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and the granting of provisional unlawful presence waivers for adding to the backlog.
In a June address to immigration judges, Sessions urged each judge to aim to complete 700 cases a year to clear the backlog. “Volume is critical,” he said. “To end the lawlessness and move to the virtuous circle, we have to be very productive.” In addition to hiring more than 100 additional immigration judges this year, the DOJ also plans to tackle its growing caseload by piloting video-teleconference adjudication.
Critics say the directives to judges could deprive immigrants of due process
“Justice cannot be dispensed on an assembly line, but [the latest directive] seeks to do just that by pressuring judges to deny continuances and move cases rapidly through the system without due regard for potential relief,” said Anastasia Tonello, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. —Rob Holmes