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A Move to Give Immigration Judges More Independence in Their Court Rooms

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Immigration judges, law makers and legislators, among other advocates are calling to Congress to shield immigration courts from political influence. Unlike other judges, immigration judges have more restrictions in their decision making power. Immigration judges are not part of the judicial branch, they report to the Department of Justice (DOJ). Additionally, immigration judges are bound by agency policy and their decisions can be overturned by the Attorney General at any point.

A bill was introduced to the Senate on March 6th that aims to give immigration judges more independence and moves to remove the quotas imposed on them by the Trump administration. Many have advocated for years to move immigration judges from the DOJ altogether and have them serve as Article 1 judges (organized under article 1 of the U.S. Constitution) – though this is highly unlikely.

The immigration court system is used to the shifts in the system that come with new administrations. But the current administration, and more specifically, the Attorney Generals, have imposed new laws have trounced years of precedent.

In the Castro-Tum case, Sessions made it so immigration judges no longer have the authority to administratively close cases and can no longer delay deportation orders. In the Matter of A-B case, Sessions eliminated domestic violence as a qualifying basis for someone to file for asylum.

The immigration courts currently face a backlog of 800,000 thousand cases, a number steadily increasing as a direct result of the changes in law by the Attorney Generals. The bill brought before the Senate on March 6th is an effort to ensure immigration judges can continue to exercise independent decision making and also moves to eliminate the quotas imposed on immigration judges.

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