“The refugee program was not the only part of the immigration system that sustained shocks this week from three executive orders by President Donald Trump. While the White House scrambled to contain the widening furor over his ban on refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries, the administration was laying the groundwork for a vast expansion of the nation’s deportation system. How vast? Here’s a close reading of Trump’s orders:”
Read Julia’s full analysis at the link.
Not to beat a dead horse, but it’s hard to resist. To show what a “parallel universe” executives at the EOIR live in, the article says that without the Trump priorities EOIR believes it could have begun to reduce the backlog with 330 Immigration Judges (they currently have 305, and approximately 370 are authorized). What!!!!
Math wasn’t my strong point, but let’s do some basics here. There are more than 530,000 currently pending cases in the U.S. Immigration Courts. An experienced fully trained, fully productive Immigration Judge (which none of the new Immigration Judges will be for several years, if then) can do a reasonable job on at best 750 cases per year. So, 330 fully trained Immigration Judges might be able to do approximately 250,000 cases per year without stomping on individuals’ due process rights. That’s barely enough to keep up with the normal (pre-Trump Administration) annual filings of new cases, let alone make realistic progress on a one half million backlog.
But, even that would be highly optimistic. The real minimum number of Immigration Judges needed to keep the system afloat and “guarantee fairness and due process for all,” even without the distorted Trump priorities, is 500 Immigration Judges as determined by the consensus of “outside-EOIR/DOJ management” observers. And, that’s not even considering that many of the best and most experienced Immigration Judges will be retiring over the next few years.
So, even without the Trump Executive Orders, EOIR executives were living in a dream world that had little relationship to what is happening at the “retail level” of the system, in the Immigration Courts. And, because none of the folks who sit in the EOIR HQ “Tower” in Falls Church, well intentioned as they might be, actually hear and decide cases in the Immigration Courts, the gap between reality and bureaucracy at EOIR is simply off the charts!
This system needs help, and it needs it fast! The DOJ and EOIR, as currently structured and operated, simply cannot solve the real problems of one of America’s largest, most important, most under-resourced, and most out off control court systems. Unless the Trump Administration and Congress can “get smart” in a hurry and pull together on legislation to get the Immigration Courts out of the DOJ and into an independent Article I structure, this system is heading for a monumental due process train wreck that could threaten to take the rest of the U.S. justice system along with it.