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Immigration Judges Threatened

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An increasing number of immigration judges are being the victims of life threats from respondents—a sign that a reconsideration of court security is a must, according to the Association of Administrative Law Judges (AALJ).

Immigration judges have reported an increased amount of threatening letters and e-mails, as well as more respondents grabbing the judges’ robes, and throwing chairs at them. A client even attempted suicide in the court, if the judge did not favor the respondent, according to an AALJ press release.

The AALJ said that such life threats are the result of the typical conditions under which immigration judges hear cases. The report says that in the majority of immigration cases respondents are not represented by an immigration lawyer—increasing the possibility of life threatening actions from the respondents. Often, the only people present in a court hearing are the judge, a government attorney, and the respondent.

Additionally, AALJ also stated that another factor that makes immigration judges prone to life threats is that respondents often have mental disabilities, criminal records, have a history of domestic abuse, or have experience high levels of violence in their home countries.

Some of the recommendations that AALJ proposed include  establishing:

-Different entrances and exits for judges.

-Door peepholes, so that guards can keep an eye on hearings.

-More officers and marshals in courts.

-More bailiffs, which are legal officers with certain authority, in immigration courtrooms.

-An increase in security training given to judges and court staff.

-More secured parking for judges.

On August 2010, the New Mexico legislature turned down a proposed bill that would have increased the punishment given to respondents who threaten judges, as reported by the Santa Fe, New Mexican newspaper. In addition, on August 13, 2010, a New Jersey blogger was convicted for up to ten years in prison for posting life threatening remarks
against three judges from the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals who upheld the gun banning in Chicago, as reported by the Associated Press.

Judges in Social Security cases were also identified as victims of life threats. AALJ reported that this is due in part to the fact that many respondents in Social Security cases have been previously denied benefits, before they arrive in court—increasing the possibility that respondents have pre-existing anger when they arrive to their hearings.

http://www.ifpte.org/Downloads/Archives/Press%20Releases/2010/aaljnaijrelfinal.pdf

http://www.nhregister.com/articles/2010/08/14/news/aa3_halturner081410.txt

http://www.santafenewmexican.com/localnews/Legislature-Bills-would-have-toughened-penalty-for-judge-threat

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