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The DOJ Passes Rule Undermining Judicial Independence

In August 2019, the U.S. government announced changes to the agency that runs the country’s immigration courts (EOIR), giving its director authority to weigh in and make appellate rulings on cases.

The interim rule, published by the Justice Department, faced immediate criticism by the immigration judges’ union. AILA (the American Immigration Lawyers Association) also criticized the decision, by saying the Trump administration is trying to exert improper political sway over immigration court decisions. The Court is supposed to be politically neutral. This rule has since become final.

The rule gives the director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) the ability to issue appellate decisions in cases that haven’t been decided within an allotted time frame. It also cements the administration’s decision to create an office of policy for the immigration courts in 2017.

The rule comes as the Justice Department has sought to terminate the immigration judges’ union and imposed performance targets and strict rules for docket management on judges. For example, it creates case completion quotas that are needed for good performance reviews and stripped the power of immigration judges to administratively close cases. All of this comes amid a surge in Central American families seeking asylum on the southwest border. All of these efforts undermine due process and make immigration courts pawns in the Trump administration’s goal to limit immigration and to deport as many people as possible.

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