Thursday, July 18, 2024

Immigration judges unite against Sessions and claim they want their independence back

In an uncharacteristically public move, the union representing immigration judges on Wednesday criticized the Attorney General Jeff Sessions led Department of Justice for interfering with the courts’ independence.

“The agency’s actions violated the independence of the judge’s decision-making authority and undermined the integrity of immigration courts,” Judge Ashley Tabaddor, speaking as president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, told reporters on a press call after filing an official grievance. “We, as judges who are bound by an oath of office, cannot let these actions proceed unchallenged.”

The National Association of Immigration Judges alleges that Trump Administration officials transferred the case of an undocumented immigrant away from a Philadelphia-based immigration judge because the judge didn’t give them the outcome they wanted: a deportation order when the immigrant didn’t show up in court. The union that represents the judges believes the agency’s move was just the latest in a string of attacks on the independence of the courtrooms.

Critics believe that Sessions and his deputies are trying to achieve a specific result; more deportation orders, quicker completion of cases or a message that immigration enforcement is a priority and using immigration judges to get it. Sessions got involved in a particular case after Judge Steven Morley administratively closed the case of Reynaldo Castro-Tulum.

The Trump administration disagreed with that decision and in May, Sessions agreed with the Board of Immigration Appeals that Morley should reopen the case and went a step further, limiting the judge’s authority to administratively close cases at all. In its grievance, filed under its collective bargaining agreement, the union argued that the Executive Office for Immigration Review should issue a written acknowledgment of its error and return the cases to his courtroom.

It also urged the agency to issue a written statement to all judges acknowledging that cases should not be assigned or reassigned in a manner that would interfere with their authority to make independent decisions. The Department of Justice now has 60 days to respond to the grievance.