Immigration Judges, Attorneys Worry That Sessions’ Quotas Will Cut Into Justice in Clogged Court System

A case takes nearly 900 days to make its way through the backlogged immigration courts of Texas. The national average is about 700 days in a system sagging with nearly 700,000 cases.

A new edict from President Donald Trump’s administration orders judges of the immigration courts to speed it up.

Now the pushback begins.

Quotas planned for the nation’s 334 immigration judges will just make the backlog worse by increasing appeals and questions about due process, says Ashley Tabaddor, Los Angeles-based president of the National Association of Immigration Judges.

Quotas of 700 cases a year, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, were laid out in a performance plan memo by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. They go into effect October 1.

Some have even called the slowdown from the backlog “de facto amnesty.”

“We believe it is absolutely inconsistent to apply quotas and deadlines on judges who are supposed to exercise independent decision-making authority,” Tabaddor said.

“The parties that appear before the courts will be wondering if the judge is issuing the decision because she is trying to meet a deadline or quota or is she really applying her impartial adjudicative powers,” she added.

That will build an appeal into the case and swell the backlog, rather than deflate it, Tabaddor predicts.

Some defend the quotas. Art Arthur, a retired immigration judge, said if an immigrant is deportable, “it is de facto amnesty” to let them stay for months or years while awaiting the outcome of their cases “because they get to live here indefinitely.”

Arthur worked as an immigration judge for nearly a decade in Pennsylvania and said that he cleared about 1,000 cases annually.

But Cornell Law School professor Stephen Yale-Loehr called the move an attack on judicial independence that may violate due process rights of non-citizens, too.

“You can imagine if we had a backlog in our criminal courts and the Texas Attorney General said every judge had to settle a number of cases per week. There would be huge uproar,” Yale-Loehr said.

By Dianne Solis for DALLAS NEWS
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