Undue Pressure?

New Quotas for Immigration Judges Are 'Incredibly Concerning,' Critics Warn

Immigration judges will now be required to complete three cases per workday.

Paul Bradbury

The Justice Department will put new quotas on immigration judges, an official there confirmed to The Daily Beast.

Critics of the move say it will result in speedier deportations of asylum-seekers, robbing them of due process. The decision’s defenders, meanwhile, say it will help reduce the massive backlog of people waiting to have their cases heard in immigration court.

James McHenry, who heads the DOJ’s Executive Office for Immigration Review, announced the change in an email Friday to immigration judges around the country. The Justice Department official said the new metrics will require immigration judges to complete three cases per workday, and that the immigration judges’ union allowed metrics to be put in place during its most recent round of collective bargaining. McHenry’s email was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

“We’re incredibly concerned in that judges should not feel undue pressure to dispose of these cases rapidly in an effort to manage the enormous backlog,” Laura Lynch, senior policy counsel for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, told The Daily Beast. “We’re very concerned that cases will be rushed through the system and due process will be circumvented with these new quotas.”

The new regimen will require some judges to adjudicate cases more quickly than they have been. The average cases completed per year by immigration judges, per the official, is fewer than 680. The new metric will require judges to complete 700 cases per year.

Lynch said that making judges move more quickly will mean that some migrants facing deportation will have less time to get lawyers.

“We’re going to see vulnerable populations, such as asylum seekers, being rushed through the system without the opportunity to obtain an immigration attorney, without an opportunity to present evidence, to present their claim in a manner that’s appropriate with due process,” Lynch said. “We’re concerned that due process protections will not be afforded to these individuals due to the rushed process.”

The immigration court backlog is currently more than 680,000 cases, according to Syracuse University.

“This is a recipe for disaster,” A. Ashley Tabaddor, an immigration judge who heads the National Association of Immigration Judges, told the Journal. “You are going to, at minimum, impact the perception of the integrity of the court.”

Dana Marks, a spokesperson for the immigration judges’ union, told The Daily Beast that the change could actually increase the case backlog since it may make more people want to appeal.

“Unfortunately, people who come before us are going to be less confident that they’re getting independent and fair decisions and they’re going to have a greater incentive to follow an appeals process, to have someone else look over the judges shoulder,” she said.