Published October 15, 2019

In all, there are more than 400 immigration judges in the U.S., and they are employed by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Executive Office of Immigration Review (DOJ/EOIR) to preside over removal proceedings and essentially decide who gets to remain in the U.S and who must depart.  Of course, there are laws that govern the decision-making process, and the judges making these decision are charged with applying a long list of statutes, regulations and case-law fairly and efficiently.  But as is no secret, the strain on this government function these days is at unprecedented levels, with the corps of immigration judges facing a record case backlog, along with a many dimensioned set of pressures.

The specifics of the recent National Association of Immigration Judges unfair labor complaint are based on DOJ efforts to delegitimize and otherwise, decertify, the 40 year old labor organization.  The union is taking issue with initiatives to discipline and fire judges seen as lagging in issuing decisions in a timely manner or departing from a political point of view or legal approach favored by the DOJ – EOIR’s parent agency.  The complaint also incorporates condemnations and objections with regard to a recent DOJ/EOIR action to distribute a blatantly anti-Semitic blog post as part of a daily morning briefing email to its employees.

Ashley Tabaddor, the union’s president expressed her organization’s concerns and will to resist the pressure being placed on their members: “(w)e are deeply engaged in the long fight against decertification of our union…….(w)e will not stand idle while efforts to undermine the independence of our courts relentlessly persists”.

From its perspective, the current administration is seeking to implement an agenda featuring a more swift and efficient decision-making apparatus, although many question whether such a goal will be at the expense of accurate and fair legal decisions.  The union sees the administration as ferociously doing everything it can to reduce immigration to the U.S. in total, and as part of that aim, inappropriately pressuring its members and overstepping well established boundaries.  The union sees administration tactics as a means to dilute immigration judge independence and an attack on the integrity and discretionary authority of the court, with a premium being put on quicker, expanded judge output as opposed to sound judgement and adherence to the law.

As to the distribution of an anti-Semitic newsletter last month, the DOJ daily news briefing to EOIR employees included a link to a white nationalist blog post discussing the pending decertification effort, and how it was initiated to combat Jews “seeking power and control”.

The Department of Justice section responsible for distributing the link has declared that such action was not intentional, and blamed the action on a third party contracting company charged with the newsletters’s electronic distribution.

The idea of an independent judicial body to oversee our nation’s removal proceedings is not a new one.  Its just that the cause of judges being shielded from political and other partisan legal biases has found a new level of importance in a world where the current administration has taken not so subtle actions to mold and set in motion a system with a very particular political and legally questionable agenda.


PUBLISHED October 15, 2019– “IMMIGRATION LAW FORUM” Copyright © 2019, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois