Knight Institute Calls on DOJ’s Executive Office for Immigration Review to Suspend Policy Silencing Immigration Judges

In a letter, the Institute argues that the agency’s policy, which it recently obtained through a FOIA request, violates the First Amendment

JANUARY 06, 2020

WASHINGTON — In a letter sent today to the acting director of the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University demanded that the agency suspend its policy restricting the ability of EOIR employees to speak at public events. That policy, Institute lawyers argued, violates the First Amendment by unduly abridging the right of immigration judges and other EOIR employees to speak in their personal capacities about matters of significant public interest.

The Knight Institute recently obtained a copy of the EOIR’s policy through a Freedom of Information Act request. That FOIA request was submitted as part of a major investigation the Institute’s writer-in-residence Cristian Farias is leading on free speech restrictions at the U.S. border.

The policy categorically prohibits certain senior EOIR employees from speaking at public events in their personal capacities, and it requires all other EOIR employees to obtain supervisory approval before doing so.

“There is immense public interest in recent changes to immigration policy, and the effects those changes are having on migrant communities,” said Ramya Krishnan, a staff attorney at the Knight Institute. “EOIR’s policy deprives the public of a crucial voice in that debate, by silencing those charged with operating the nation’s immigration courts.”

The Knight Institute’s constitutional objections to the EOIR policy come in the midst of an ongoing conflict between U.S. immigration judges—who are EOIR employees—and the U.S. government. Some immigration judges have been critical of Trump administration policies that they say interfere with their independence, such as case-completion quotas, and the administration is now attempting to decertify the union that represents the judges. A hearing in that decertification proceeding is scheduled to begin tomorrow.

“Federal employees don’t relinquish their First Amendment rights when they begin working for the government,” said Stephanie Krent, a legal fellow at the Knight Institute. “Limits on federal-employee speech must be tailored to speech that would be genuinely disruptive, but this policy is anything but. It sweepingly suppresses protected speech without any apparent justification.”

Read the Knight Institute’s letter and the EOIR policy here.

For more information, contact: Lorraine Kenny, Knight First Amendment Institute,, (646) 745-8510.




Click the above link in the press release to see the letter to EOIR Director McHenry.


Given the absolute Due Process disaster in Immigration Court and the total dysfunctional mess that the “malicious incompetents” at DOJ and EOIR so-called “management” have made out of an already troubled system, it’s perfectly understandable why EOIR doesn’t want any public scrutiny or the truth to come out.


However, given the regime’s complete disregard of the Constitution, the rule of law, and sound public policy in areas from immigration to the environment to voting rights, etc., I wouldn’t hold my breath for EOIR to change their unconstitutional and “just plain dumb” policies. Hopefully, the Knight Institute has the resources to take this to the “real” courts and, perhaps, even to Congress in better times.


But, to date, a divided Congress with “Moscow Mitch” in the driver’s seat and the higher-level Article IIIs have shown little interest in applying the Constitution or insisting on compliance with laws when it’s only the rights and lives of immigrants, particularly brown skinned ones from south of our border, involved. That’s particularly interesting, and not just a little discouraging, because very few members of the Article III Judiciary are Native Americans; almost all descend from immigrants and many of their ancestors would not have been allowed to come here or would not have survived under the types of stereotyping and invidious, unconstitutional discrimination unleashed by Trump and his minions. The ability to see yourself in the situation of other humans should be a requirement for any Article III judge! Obviously, it hasn’t been, or at least not to a sufficient extent, in the past.


So far, the Article IIIs Appellate Courts have bent over backwards to demonstrate just how aggressively out of touch they are with humanity and the everyday individual rights of Americans, whether citizens or non-citizens, entitled to protection under our laws.


Unfortunately, the “failure of courage and dereliction of Constitutional responsibility” among the Article III Appellate Judiciary is a problem that will continue to plague whatever is left of America and our institutions even after Trump and his kakistocracy are gone from the scene.


At some point, maybe legal education in American has to focus on a larger problem: educating a future judiciary with an overriding commitment to ethics, courage to stand up for individual rights, and the integrity to “just say no” to tyranny, inhumanity, wanton cruelty, and constant Executive overreach!


We can’t change what has happened, but we can learn from our failures.


Due Process Forever!





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