Session feeds throttle for deportations
The Department of Justice has announced to the immigration judges that their performance will begin to be evaluated as of October based on the speed with which they close cases.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions is willing to harm even due process as long as the decisions of immigration courts speed up deportation cases.
According to a memorandum made public by the Wall Street Journal, and sent last Friday to immigration judges, the Justice Department informed that new “quotas" would be incorporated to "expedite handling of cases".
"Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said that the backlog at the immigration courts allows people who should be deported to linger inside the United States," explains the WSJ, and that is why the new measures communicated by the Director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review, James McHenry, pose a system of pressure on the judges through the evaluation system.
"The purpose of implementing these metrics is to encourage efficient and effective case management while preserving immigration judge discretion and due process," the document reads.
According to the new measures, the judges "must complete at least 700 cases a year" to receive a positive evaluation of their performance, explains the Washington Post, a measure that the union of judges has described as "unprecedented" and that would put the risk judicial independence.
While it is true that there is a large number of cases pending before the Executive Office of Immigration Review - about 600,000 according to the estimates of the Post - critics have argued that this new imposition could hinder the judicial process while involving the judge’s interests in each case.
"This is a recipe for disaster," Ashley Tabaddor, an immigration judge in Los Angeles who is president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, told WSJ. "You are going to, at minimum, impact the perception of the integrity of the court."
Also, Laura Lynch, principal advisor of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, explained to CNN that "creating an environment where the courts care more about the speed than the accuracy, and where judges are evaluated and even rewarded based on quantity rather than quality is unacceptable and a violation of due process."
According to the Department of Justice, the average immigration judge "currently completes 678 cases per year," so the new guidelines would involve solving about three cases a day.
"If judges are not performing, they could be fired or potentially moved around the country - a tactic that could push judges out of the system," CNN continues.
Also, the document includes other criteria such as the "penalty of those who refer more than 15% of certain cases to higher courts, or judges who schedule hearing dates far apart on their calendar", which would put at risk even the lives of those who, for example, are applying for asylum and their lives are in danger if they are returned to their country of origin.
"Our biggest concern about asylum seekers and vulnerable populations is that immigration judges are making these important decisions, often life-and-death decisions, every day," concluded Lynch. "They must be afforded the time to properly make that decision."