Right now there is a backlog of some 18,000 cases in our immigration court system. Under the Obama administration that was a feature not a bug. Illegals who were entitled to a court hearing, a class that Obama arbitrarily expanded, had about a two year wait for a court date. At which time they were expected to show up. Obviously, there is a flaw in that system. Why would anyone show up to be deported?
Now Trump’s Justice Department is acting to speed this up.
The U.S. Justice Department is developing plans to temporarily reassign immigration judges from around the country to 12 cities to speed up deportations of illegal immigrants who have been charged with crimes, according to two administration officials.
How many judges will be reassigned and when they will be sent is still under review, according to the officials, but the Justice Department has begun soliciting volunteers for deployment.
The targeted cities are New York; Los Angeles; Miami; New Orleans; San Francisco; Baltimore, Bloomington, Minnesota; El Paso, Texas; Harlingen, Texas; Imperial, California; Omaha, Nebraska and Phoenix, Arizona. They were chosen because they are cities which have high populations of illegal immigrants with criminal charges, the officials said.
A spokeswoman for the Justice Department’s Executive Office of Immigration Review, which administers immigration courts, confirmed that the cities have been identified as likely recipients of reassigned immigration judges, but did not elaborate on the planning.
This is not going to move fast but it is a step in the right direction. Immigration judges are not Article III judges but rather they are employees of the Justice Department. They are asking for volunteers because civil service employees can’t be directed to duty at sites away from their home post. There is a process for moving positions but it is not overnight. And Trump asked for about $80 million to hire more people for the immigration court system but that is over a year in the future.
Former immigration judge and chairman of the Board of Immigration Appeals Paul Schmidt said the Trump administration should not assume that all those charged with crimes would not be allowed to stay in the United States legally.
“It seems they have an assumption that everyone who has committed a crime should be removable, but that’s not necessarily true. Even people who have committed serious crimes can sometimes get asylum,” Schmidt said.
He also questioned the effectiveness of shuffling immigration judges from one court to another, noting that this will mean cases the judges would have handled in their usual courts will have to be rescheduled. He said that when he was temporarily reassigned to handle cases on the southern border in 2014 and 2015, cases he was slated to hear in his home court in Arlington, Virginia had to be postponed, often for more than a year.
“That’s what you call aimless docket reshuffling,” he said.
A couple of things wrong with this. “Docket shuffling” isn’t bad if you are processing more cases and that is what the objective is. An on-site judge can speed up the process immensely. Secondly, what this guy says about criminals getting political asylum is false:
If you have a criminal record that includes any of the following, you will not be eligible for asylum:
conviction of a particularly serious crime
commission of a serious non-political crime outside the U.S.
reasons to believe that you are a danger to the security of the U.S.
participation in terrorist activities, or
persecution of others.
These criminal bars to asylum are mandatory. That is, even if you meet the definition of a “refugee,” you will not be granted asylum once an Asylum Officer or an Immigration Judge finds that a criminal bar applies to you. Also, if you are applying “derivatively” through your spouse or parent who obtains asylum, but a criminal bar applies to you, you will not be eligible for asylum.
Any waiver of this would have to be done through the Justice Department and Jeff Sessions is much less likely to agree to let a criminal apply for political asylum than Eric Holder or Loretta Lynch.
Trump has already made significant changes in how immigration law is enforced and in limiting access to immigration courts:
“Under this executive order, ICE will not exempt classes or categories of removal aliens from potential enforcement,” a fact sheet released by the Department of Homeland Security said, using the acronym for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “All of those present in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention, and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States.”
That includes people convicted of fraud in any official matter before a governmental agency and people who “have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits.”
The policy also expands a program that lets officials bypass due process protections such as court hearings in some deportation cases.
Under the Obama administration, the program, known as “expedited removal,” was used only when an immigrant was arrested within 100 miles of the border and had been in the country no more than 14 days. Now it will include all those who have been in the country for up to two years, no matter where they are caught. [my italics]
When you couple a more aggressive removal policy with a redeployment of judges, the backlog begins to go away.