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Pacific Standard
May 26, 2019

Should our immigration courts move to the judicial branch?
By Massoud Hayoun

Despite the administration's promises to help improve the immigration court system, analysts have decried a number of policies that they say have undermined the courts. In April of 2018, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions required that immigration judges close at least 700 cases a year with a low rate of appeal in order to receive a favorable performance review. The move, ostensibly aimed at reducing the backlog, pressured the judges to plow through their caseloads, analysts have said, threatening due process for immigrants. And the move backfired: Rushed rulings are frequently appealed, further compounding the backlog. In another similar measure in May 2018, Sessions stopped the use of administrative closures, in which immigration judges withhold judgment on a case while immigrants make formal petitions for legal status. Administrative closures had helped judges to prioritize their dockets and avoid getting bogged down with lower-urgency cases. Coupled with the administration's unprecedented push to arrest undocumented immigrants with no criminal record, these decisions have made the court's backlog grow nearly 50 percent under the Trump administration, according to the Syracuse University non-profit data research center, Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse. In November, there were over 768,000 outstanding cases.

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, Syracuse University
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