Attorney General Jeff Sessions said on Monday he plans to increase the number of immigration judges in the US. UU At 50 percent at the end of fiscal year 2018, part of the administration's effort to assume an accumulated backlog under Trump's zero government. tolerance policy.
The number of pending immigration cases in the United States has increased 38 percent since Trump took office, with 746,049 pending immigration cases until July 31, from 542,411 as of end-January 2017, according to a government data analysis by transactional records. Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.
Sessions affirmed his authority on Monday during welcoming statements to 44 newly hired immigration judges, the largest class in US history, saying they must operate under his supervision and perform the tasks he prescribed.
While not all states have an immigration court, immigrants who live in each state have cases before an immigration judge. This map illustrates where people live with pending immigration cases
"As you assume this important role, I hope you are imaginative and inventive to handle a large volume of work," he said. "I do not apologize for expecting you to perform, at a high level, efficiently and effectively."
The attorney general said that the system to seek asylum in the United States has been abused for years & # 39; and, although judges must respect the rights of immigrants, they must also reject unjustified and sometimes flagrantly false claims.
The sessions also had harsh words for lawyers representing immigrants, describing them as "water seeping through a land dam" and trying to "avoid" immigration laws.
The message follows a series of policy changes that have put increasing pressure on immigration judges to close cases quickly while taking away their authority to prioritize cases at their own discretion.
"We are clearly moving towards a point where there will be no judicial independence in the immigration courts," former immigration judge Jeffrey S. Chase told DailyMail.com.
The US Attorney General UU Jeff Sessions makes statements to the incoming class of immigration judges in Falls Church, Virginia
For example, the Department of Justice announced earlier this year a quota system that requires judges to eliminate at least 700 cases a year to be rated "satisfactory" in their performance evaluations.
The fees "would threaten the integrity and independence of the court and possibly increase the backlog of the court," according to the National Association of Immigration Judges, the union that represents judges.
Sessions also issued a decision earlier this year that takes away the authority of immigration judges to close cases administratively, a process that allowed a judge to close cases of low priority indefinitely to make room on the list of more serious crimes, such as related to violence. criminals and gang members.
From October 1, 2011 to September 30, 2017, 215,285 cases were administratively closed, according to the sessions. Now the experts say that those cases will be added back to the files, aggravating the accumulation even more.
In addition, Sessions issued a legal opinion earlier this year, designed to make it impossible for victims of domestic violence and gangs to apply for asylum in the United States, which some critics say will limit judicial independence.
The accumulation of immigration cases has increased steadily in the last decade
Legal experts said Monday that the session's speech was designed to assert their authority over judges and instill in them the importance of making judgments consistent with their own philosophy.
"That was an enforcement speech," former immigration judge Paul Wickham Schmidt told DailyMail.com. "All the implication that in some way (asylum seekers) bend the law and that there are lawyers trying to pass through gaps is the opposite of the truth … The losers in these asylum cases are not simply migrants trying to play with the system, they are people who face real dangers when they go home. "
The sessions did not shy away from calling the new judges to face the challenges they face.
"Let me say this clearly: it is perfectly legitimate, moral and decent for a nation to have a legal immigration system and enforce the system it adopts," Sessions said in his prepared comments. "No large and prosperous nation can have a generous welfare system and open borders, such a policy is both radical and dangerous."
Sessions has said he has introduced a "simplified" approach. to hire judges, a historically long process, to reduce the average hiring time to 266 days, compared to 742 days in 2017, according to data from the Department of Justice.
Immigration judges are appointed by the US Attorney General. UU New additions raise the total number of immigration judges in the US UU At approximately 350.
Ten states were responsible for most of the increase in the backlog of cases within US immigration courts since President Trump took office.