Despite Biden’s Union Support, Immigration Judges Left Waiting

hearingroom7/071102 – Gavel in the House Armed Services Committee hearing room in Rayburn Building.

Under Trump, a labor board ruled to decertify the judges’ union. Will the Biden administration move to restore it?

President Joe Biden has emerged as a strong pro-labor voice, tapping a former union official as Labor secretary and issuing an explicit pro-union statement amid Amazon workers’ unionization bid.

Still, the president has yet to offer support to one federal employees’ union that took a particular beating under the Trump administration — the immigration judges’ union. The Biden administration remains mum even as migration policies and asylum have emerged as hot-button issues of the president’s first 100 days in office.

The National Association of Immigration Judges, which has represented the interests of immigration judges for more than four decades, has been fighting for its life since the Trump administration successfully petitioned a federal labor agency to decertify it.

In a split ruling in November, the Federal Labor Relations Authority overturned long-standing precedent and held that immigration judges are management officials, and thus ineligible to be represented by a union. The union contested the ruling, and the case is still pending.

Now, more than a month after former D.C. Circuit judge Merrick B. Garland was confirmed as attorney general, the Justice Department — which houses the U.S. immigration court system — has not intervened.

Amiena Khan, president of the judges’ union, said in an interview that the Biden administration has not reached out about the issue.

“We recognize the challenges that the current administration has before it, and we understand that the work that the administration is doing to address issues on the national scale, beyond immigration,” Khan said. “However, that being said, we are hopeful that there will be action sooner rather than later.”

Garland has yet to indicate whether he will rescind several decisions penned by attorneys general under the previous administration. In the last four years, Trump officials limited asylum eligibility for those fleeing violence by private actors, like gang members and domestic partners, and immigration judges’ ability to maintain their own dockets.

By Suzanne Monyak for ROLL CALL
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