The Trump administration will impose a new quota system on immigration judges in an effort to speed up deportations and clear the backlog of hundreds of thousands of cases currently waiting to go before a judge, according to a Justice Department directive sent to judges Friday. Under the new system, immigration judges’ job performance would be based, in part, on whether they meet several standards, including a requirement to close 700 cases a year. In addition, of those cases, each judge would need fewer than 15 percent of their decisions to be sent back by a higher court.
The quota system, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, adds context to President Trump’s tweets Monday evening.
According to the Justice Department, immigration judges, on average, complete 678 cases in a year, but there is a wide range with some judges completing as many as 1,500 cases in a year. Some judges, for instance, have dockets full of cases that are quick to resolve, whereas others work on more complex legal matters that often require more time and effort to bring to a close. The union representing the immigration judges pushed back against the decision saying it threatened judicial independence and raised the possibility that the quotas could hamper the effort to clear the backlog by generating numerous appeals. “Immigration attorneys and the union that represents judges warned the rules would pressure judges to resolve cases quickly at the expense of hearing out evidence that could help defendants trying to stay in the U.S.,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
“Some immigrants facing deportation wait years for a court date, but they are typically authorized to work in the United States to support themselves during that time, an arrangement that critics view as an incentive to illegal immigration,” the Washington Post reports. “Attorney General Jeff Sessions has promised to stiffen immigration enforcement partly by moving more aggressively to clear a backlog of more than 600,000 cases pending before the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR), the federal court system that adjudicates immigration cases.” Immigration judges, unlike regular courts, which are part of the judicial branch, are part of the executive branch, and fall under the purview of the Justice Department.
The quota system is set to go into effect beginning Oct. 1.
Support work like this for just $1
Slate is covering the stories that matter to you. Become a Slate Plus member to support our work. Your first month is only $1.