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Why Are Immigration Judges Moving On?

Written By The Shapiro Law Group on February 18, 2020

The Trump Administration has issued a number of policies wresting away some of the authority possessed by immigration judges, and some in Illinois and elsewhere are quitting their jobs. This is adding to the problems inherent in the U.S. immigration court system. Judges are getting rewarded for closing more cases quickly, and the Department of Justice has assumed more control over how the judges perform their jobs and how they make decisions. The immigration courts are becoming tainted by politics and are expected to follow the federal government’s lead in refusing relief to as many immigrants and people seeking asylum as possible. As more judges quit, the Justice Department is replacing them with judges whose political views align more closely with the current administration’s policies.

Policy Changes for Immigration Judges

Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions implemented a number of policy changes that have impacted how immigration judges perform their jobs. Because of a backlog of nearly one million cases, the Justice Department established case quotas. Under the quota system, judges are rewarded for closing a greater number of cases each year and for speeding up how quickly individual cases move through the system. The Justice Department has also reversed rulings that have been made by immigration judges and have limited the ability of judges to exercise discretion in certain cases. It also has acted to decertify the union of immigration law judges and has given more oversight control to the director who oversees the immigration courts.

In 2018, Sessions gave a speech in Washington in which he decried what he deemed as baseless claims for asylum. He told the immigration judges that had assembled for his address that they needed to crack down on these types of claims. After his speech, Sessions issued an order in which asylum protections for the victims of domestic violence and gang violence in their home countries were removed. 

Reactions of Immigration Judges

In the past year, 45 immigration judges have left. This is double the normal number of judges who leave by quitting, moving to new jobs within the government, or passing away. Many judges directly attribute their reasons for quitting to the policy changes that have been made by the Trump Administration. Some assert that the government is doing whatever it can to try to dismantle the immigration system. The changes are impacting immigrants and asylees. People must be careful to complete their petitions accurately.