Testimony of Susan B. Long, Co-Director,
Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse(TRAC)
Ms. Long. Madam Chair and Members of this Subcommittee, my name is Susan Long, and I am co-director of the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, commonly
known as TRAC. I wish to thank you for the invitation to come today to testify about the results of TRACís research on the functioning of the immigration court system and its administration by the Executive Office
for Immigration Review. Since its founding in 1989, TRAC has sought to provide the American people with comprehensive information about the activities of Federal enforcement and regulatory agencies. To give you one small indicator of the scope of TRACís activities, TRAC publishes
around 100,000 reports each month on a large range of topics. These reports are based upon TRACís ever-expanding data warehouse, with more than a terabyte of data, roughly equivalent
to over 500 million printed pages of information.
TRACís series of focus studies on the immigration courts began in 2005. The problems faced by our immigration court system are not new. TRACís analyses of hundreds of thousands of immigration
court records covering the last quarter-century, supplemented by extensive examination of budgets, staffing, workload and other agency documents, along with interviews with stakeholders, show
that our immigration court system has been troubled for a very long time. These conclusions are further reinforced by the criticisms from the Federal appellate courts and the reports of other analysts and immigration stakeholders.
Two years ago, the Bush administration made a commitment to end this sorry history. However, our careful examination since then shows that this promise has not been kept. Our findings: One, the most recent covering the period through
the end of fiscal year 2007, continue to show inexplicable asylum grant rate disparities among judges in the immigration courts.
Two, despite the fact immigration judge caseload has repeatedly been cited as a chief problem, there are still fewer immigration judges today than there were in 2006 when the attorney general
announced his 22-point plan for reforms, as result only partially explainedby the illegal hiring process used by the Justice Department
in EOIR. Further, a central reform promised was for DOJ to seek budget increases to increase the available number of immigration judge positions. Regrettably, there has been no actual increase in the number of immigration judge positions since the A.G.ís proposals were announced. And DOJ did not even seek funding for increasing immigration judge positions, as we heard earlier testimony on, in the fiscal year 2009 budget.
Three, despite the fact that judicial conduct and quality were the stated reasons for conducting the 2006 comprehensive review of the immigration court system, over 2 years later EOIR has failed to implement key improvement measures, as directed by the A.G., to enforce the oversight and training of judges.
Four, and despite the hope that the Gonzales reforms would usher in increased transparency and accountability into the immigration courts, the Justice Department and EOIR has repeatedly
and needlessly sought to veil the implementation of improvements,including decisions that amount to substantial policy changes.
My prepared statement outlines each of these points at more length and provides full references to TRACís research studies
where these and other findings are laid out in detail. I would be happy to answer any questions the Committee may have.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Long follows:]