An overlooked statement in President Trump’s recently released list of DACA demands proposed that the Justice Department establish “numeric performance standards” on federal immigration judges to force them to speed up the pace of deportations.
There are currently 600,000 backlogged cases, and imposing quotas would allow the administration to inhumanely shuffle asylum seekers and undocumented immigrants through like a factory.
The White House elaborated on its plans to decrease the “enormous” backlog of cases in documents obtained by The Washington Post. A budding Justice Department policy would “implement numeric performance standards to evaluate Judge performance” to forcibly reduce the backlog.
Dana Leigh Marks, a spokeswoman for the National Association of Immigration Judges and a former judge, described the proposed case quotas as tantamount to a “death knell for judicial independence.” In addition to making an “assembly line” of immigration judges, she added, the proposal would give Justice Department officials unprecedented influence on how cases are heard and decided.
Asylum cases can be incredibly complex, but as The Post noted, immigrant detainees are often held in remote areas, which poses a problem for lawyers as they attempt to build cases. Many immigrants are forced to represent themselves, as they are not entitled to government-funded attorneys. Ordering immigration judges to rule within a certain time frame could severely impact thousands of people who are unable to adequately defend themselves. The stakes are incredibly high.
From The Post:
“People’s lives are at risk in immigration court cases, and to force judges to complete cases under a rapid time frame is going to undermine the ability of those judges to make careful, well thought-out decisions,” said Gregory Chen, director of government relations for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, which has 15,000 members.
The Justice Department currently runs immigration courts through the Executive Office for Immigration Review, but language in the contract between the government and the judge’s union currently prohibits any ratings or restrictions on how it hears cases—including the number of cases. However, the Justice Department is reportedly trying to walk that back as well.
Hiring more immigration judges to increase deportations is also a priority for the Justice Department. Immigration judges are exempt from the federal hiring freeze and Trump is expected to ask Congress for funding to hire an additional 370 people. Meanwhile, Attorney General Jeff Sessions went after asylum seekers on Thursday, peddling an abject conspiracy that “dirty immigration lawyers” and immigrants had “gamed” the court system.