Remove US immigration from Department of Justice, say judges

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US immigration lawyers and judges have urged the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship to remove responsibility for US immigration courts from the Department of Justice (DoJ). The call comes as a record 1.6 million people find themselves mired in US immigration court backlogs.


A key congressional panel is now considering sweeping changes to the beleaguered US immigration courts that would remove them from the Department of Justice (DoJ). According to a Bloomberg report, chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee, Zoe Lofgren – the Democratic representative for California  - is working on a bill to make the changes.

She said: “Decades of bureaucratic and political meddling by the governing administration have undermined and eroded public trust in the system. The Attorney General has authority to resolve pending US immigration cases.”


Frequent political pressure

During a recent House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing, witnesses told the panel that they faced ‘frequent political pressure’ amid changing priorities under each new administration. Meanwhile, US immigration courts are facing unprecedented backlogs, with some asylum seekers waiting up to three years for a decision on an asylum claim or deportation measures.

Currently, the DoJ’s Executive Office for Immigration Review oversees the dozens of immigration courts and hundreds of US immigration judges across the country. 

Witnesses for the Federal Bar Association, the American Bar Association, and the National Association of Immigration Judges backed calls for US immigration courts to become part of a new, independent system.

The president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, Mimi Tsankov, said: “The DoJ’s control over the courts has yielded extreme pendulum swings, and our apolitical judges are reeling as they navigate their judicial responsibilities on the one hand and heavy political scrutiny.”


Biden’s border policies blasted

Several Republicans on the subcommittee panel used the hearing as an opportunity to blast President Biden’s US border policies amid a record number of migrants arriving at the US southern border with Mexico in his first year as President.

Tom Tiffany, the Republican representative for Wisconsin, said: “It’s a myth to think that removing US immigration courts from the oversight of the DoJ will resolve the issues.”

Former US immigration judge, Andrew Arthur, agreed with Tiffany’s comments saying: “Inadequate border security is responsible for large numbers of new cases and worsening backlogs. Restructuring the court system would be expensive and wouldn’t increase efficiency.”

Arthur is now a research fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), which favors lower immigration levels.


Article 1 of the US Constitution

The legal groups and judges looking to make changes to the system are recommending the restructuring of US immigration courts under Article 1 of the US Constitution. 

Under the Trump administration, US immigration courts and judges found themselves under ‘immense political pressure’ to refuse as many asylum applications as possible as Trump sought to clampdown on immigration to the US.

Trump was accused of micromanaging the immigration system, leading to a record number of immigration judges leaving in fiscal year 2019. can help with US employment-based visas

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