|(28 Jul 2008)
Despite a Justice Department promise to seek funds for a substantial increase in Immigration Judges, the number of these judges today is below what it was in 2006, according to a special new report by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC).
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In a report issued on Monday, the Justice Department's Inspector General concluded that a major reason the promised increase in Immigration Judges did not occur was illegal political interference in the hiring process.
During the summer and fall of 2006, in a series of press releases, background statements and other documents, the Justice Department said that obtaining funds to hire 40 new immigration judges was a key component of its broad 22-point program "to improve the performance and quality" of the Immigration Courts. The Administration's call for changes in the courts was triggered by a series of highly critical appellate level court decisions and studies that found inexplicable disparities in the processing of asylum requests by individual judges.
As the presidential campaign has intensified, the effectiveness and fairness of immigration regulation has become subject to increasing debate. The decline in the number of special judges who interpret and administer the nation's immigration laws has occurred at the same time as the Justice Department and Congress were boosting Border Patrol staffing. From FY 1998 to FY 2007, for example, the number of Border Patrol agents has almost doubled, increasing from 7,890 to 15,003.
TRAC's analysis, supported by a two-year grant from the Carnegie Foundation, is the first in a series of studies examining other Justice Department efforts to improve the performance of the nation's Immigration Court system that currently is dealing with over 350,000 matters a year.
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