By: Maleeha Haq
Policies adopted by the Trump administration have put the already beleaguered immigration court system under increased pressure.
The immigration court system operates within the Department of Justice. Its judges are not members of an independent judiciary, but rather are bound by the rules and policies promulgated by the Attorney General. The current Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, has recently stepped into the operations of the immigration courts in an unprecedented manner.
In May 2018, in the decision, Matter of Castro-Tum, 27 I. & N. Dec. 187 (A.G. 2018), Sessions decided that immigration judges do not have the legal authority to temporarily halt cases on their calendars, effectively ending a practice called “administrative closure.”
Immigration judges used to administratively close ongoing cases on their dockets to allow people an opportunity to pursue other immigration relief which the immigration judge may not have the power to grant. Now those immigrants will have to proceed in immigration court and potentially be deported, even if they are eligible for immigration relief.
Under the Obama Administration, more than 300,000 immigration court cases were administratively closed for individuals who were considered low priority for removal because of their ties to the U.S. or lack of a criminal records. Now these cases are being reopened, putting pressure on a court system already struggling with over 600,000 pending cases.
Jeff Sessions’ decision is in line with the Trump administration’s goal of tightening all forms of immigration into the United States. With increased pressure on immigration judges to decide an increasing amount of cases in less time, it makes it less likely the situations of these individuals will be considered to their fullest extent before a decision is made.
Each immigrant is entitled to due process in the law, and the Trump Administration along with Jeff Sessions continues to undermine this critical American right.