Published Ocotber 19, 2017
Without question, immigration law enforcement in the U.S. has been on the rise since the election of President Trump. Heightened immigration enforcement was one of the big promises that helped propel Trump into office after successive administrations on both sides of the aisle maintained a fairly consistent immigration enforcement level. Interestingly, despite all of Trump’s inflammatory accusations directed against him, it was President Obama who, according to Department of Homeland Security statistics, was the most active immigration law enforcer among modern day Presidents. In a controversial move announced last week, the Trump administration is now calling for the implementation of decision quotas for the judges presiding over removal (formerly deportation) proceedings – the judicial process that decides a foreign national’s right to remain in the U.S. Specifically, the new measures aim to have the judicial evaluation process include an examination of the number of decisions the judge enters in a given fiscal period.
With an unprecedented number of individuals being placed in removal proceedings, a workload totaling more than 600,000 cases are in the hands of the 300 or so immigration judges overseeing these proceedings across the U.S. The judges, along with the proceedings they preside over, are a part of the Department of Justice, an executive branch agency. Individuals in removal proceedings include those who have somehow violated their temporary immigration status, never had immigration status in the first place or have otherwise committed some act, usually criminal, subjecting them to removal from the U.S.
Of concern to the administration is the efficiency of these proceedings and whether “deportable” noncitizens are manipulating the system in order to delay proceedings as long as possible in order to remain in the U.S. This concern is valid of course, but the idea of measuring a judge’s performance by the number and speed of decisions he/she enters makes many uncomfortable, including the head of the organization representing our nation’s immigration judges – the National Association of Immigration Judges. According to the organization, the implementation of such a performance metric violates the judges’ union contract with the government, and can lead to a compromised quality of decisionmaking with regard to a foreign national’s application for relief or other defense to removal proceedings – outcomes that are at times a matter of life and death. Ultimately, how and if such quotas become implemented remains to be seen.
Toward the end of shortening removal proceeding timelines, the Trump administration also aims to expand the current corps of immigration enforcement prosecutors as well as double immigration judge workforce by adding 370 new judges.
Given the added pressure this new era brings for immigration enforcement agents, prosecutors, and judges, it is now more important than ever that foreign nationals hire counsel to ensure their rights are protected and they are able to present their best defense in these proceedings.
PUBLISHED October 19, 2017– “IMMIGRATION LAW FORUM” Copyright © 2017, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois