A mandate handed down by the Trump administration designed to speed up activity within the country’s clogged immigration court system will instead create a larger backlog of cases, immigration judges and their supporters said on Wednesday.
The U.S. Department of Justice announced on Tuesday that the country’s immigration judges must complete at least 700 cases annually in order to earn a satisfactory job rating.
The effort comes as the backlog of cases has swelled and President Donald Trump's administration continues its effort to crack down on illegal immigration and the alleged “loopholes” Trump says allow people seeking asylum or waiting on hearings to stay in the country.
“This is going to invite unnecessary scrutiny and undermine the very integrity of the court,” said Judge A. Ashley Tabaddor, the president of the National Association of Immigration Judges. “Parties who appear before the court will be wondering: ‘Is the judge issuing the decision because she’s trying to meet a deadline or a quota? Or is she really applying her impartial adjudicated powers?’”
That assumed rush to judgment could lead to grounds for an appeal of a ruling, Tabaddor said, which she said would have the opposite effect the administration intends.
“It is essentially building an appealable issue into the case, which means that instead of reducing the backlog it is going to increase the backlog,” she said.
The Justice Department defended the move and said it would speed up the process without compromising due process, NBC reported Tuesday.
As of February of this year, there were more than 684,000 immigration cases awaiting a final decision, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.
That figure includes more than 105,000 cases pending in Texas courts. Tabaddor said she and other judges are aware of the backlog and work daily to make headway, but she said placing a quota means that each case only gets an average of a few hours of attention, which she said doesn’t take in to account the complexities surrounding individual circumstances. Just one asylum case, she said, could include hundreds of pages of filings, something impossible to sift through in just hours, which is how much time the judges would have on average under the quota mandate.
“Decisions in immigration court have life-or-death consequences and cannot be managed like an assembly line,” Jeremy McKinney, the secretary of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said in a statement. “This policy adds another cog to the administration's deportation machine that seeks to rapidly remove massive numbers of people at the expense of due process.”