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US Justice Department to Impose Quotas on Immigration Judges

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) has reportedly set annual quotas for immigration judges for the first time in history, requiring judges to close a certain number of cases per year in an effort to speed up deportation decisions and clear the backlog of cases in immigration courts.

On Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the new protocol, which will go into effect October 1, requires judges to complete 700 cases a year in order to receive a "satisfactory" performance rating. In addition, the new guidelines state that fewer than 15 percent of judges' decisions should be sent back by higher courts. 

Eighty-five percent of removal cases for those who are detained are to be wrapped up within three days of a hearing, while 95 percent of all merits hearings — the final hearings where a decision is made — should be completed on the scheduled hearing date.

​"The purpose of implementing these metrics is to encourage efficient and effective case management while preserving immigration judge discretion and due process," James McHenry, director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review, wrote in a Friday email to judges.

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has previously noted that delays in immigration courts have resulted in a backlog, allowing those who should be deported to remain in the US for long stretches of time. Immigrants facing deportation can wait years before receiving a court date. During that waiting period, they are typically permitted to work in the US.

There are more than 600,000 pending cases awaiting evaluation by the Executive Office of Immigration Review, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Immigration attorneys claim that the new process could cause judges to expedite cases in favor of deportation, instead of waiting for evidence that could help defendants' cases against being ejected from the country.

"This is a recipe for disaster," said A. Ashley Tabaddor, an immigration judge in Los Angeles and president of the National Association of Immigration Judges.

"You are going to, at minimum, impact the perception of the integrity of the court," she told the Wall Street Journal.

Greg Chen, director of government affairs for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said the new measures could compel judges to make decisions based on how it affects their quota.

"These are not mere target goals," Chen told the Wall Street Journal.

Tabaddor noted that the new quotas could affect the integrity of legal decisions.

"It could call into question the integrity and impartiality of the court if a judge's decision is influenced by factors outside the facts of the case or if motions are denied out of a judge's concern about keeping his or her job," Tabaddor said, the Washington Post reported.

"We don't know of any other court whose judges are subject to individual quotas and deadlines as part of performance reviews and evaluations," she said.

Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, agreed.

"The quota system proposed would raise questions about judicial independence and the possibility of judges basing rulings on factors other than the law and the facts in specific cases before them, such as the judges' self-interest in his or her own professional advancement," Tobias told the Washington Post.

Ever since US President Donald Trump took office, he has urged Republicans in the US Senate to impose stricter immigration laws to be used for arresting and deporting illegal immigrants. In addition, the Trump administration has recently attempted to block Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the Obama-era immigration policy that allowed young undocumented individuals who had arrived in the US as children to be given work permits and a renewable two-year period of deferred action for deportation.

Monday night, Trump took to Twitter once more to slam Democrats for allowing "open borders, drugs and crime."

"Honduras, Mexico and many other countries that the US is very generous to, sends many of their people to our country through WEAK IMMIGRATION POLICIES. Caravans are heading here. Must pass tough laws and build the WALL. Democrats allow open borders, drugs and crime!" he tweeted.

Earlier Monday, Trump tweeted, "As ridiculous as it sounds, the laws of our country do not easily allow us to send those crossing our southern border back where they came from. A whole big wasted procedure must take place. Mexico & Canada have tough immigration laws, whereas ours are an Obama joke. ACT CONGRESS."

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