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Immigration Judges have less Independence than Ever—Due Process Could be at Risk

Dec 6, 2018, 9:16:00 AM / by Staff Attorney

Hand about to bang gavel on sounding block in the court room


Many people new to immigration are surprised to find out that the Immigration Courts are a part of the Department of Justice.  The Immigration Judges are employees of the Department of Justice. This means their boss is Jeff Sessions, the nation’s top prosecutor.  

In the past, the Department of Justice would attempt to respect the Immigration Judges’ independence.  But now, Sessions seems determined to undermine the Immigration Judges’ independence.

A prime example of this is Jeff Sessions’ rampant certification of various cases to himself.  The Attorney General is permitted to certify any case to him or herself that is being adjudicated by the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR).  This means that the Attorney General takes the case and writes a decision that will bind the entire agency. Typically, Attorneys General will do this only in rare cases, after a case has already been considered by the Board of Immigration Appeals.  However, Jeff Sessions has been flagrant in his use of this power in an unprecedented way--taking cases that have not gone fully through the adjudication process and where the parties fundamentally agree on the issues.

Another way that Jeff Sessions has impeded on Immigration Judges’ independence is his decision in Matter of Castro-Tum, 27 I&N Dec. 271 (A.G. 2018).  In this decision, Sessions effectively took away Immigration Judges’ power to manage their dockets and administratively close cases in the vast majority of situations.   For example, under his decision, Immigration Judges can no longer close cases because an immigrant has a pending application with USCIS. This previously was a common ground for administrative closure.  Of course, this decision not only harms Judges with heavy dockets, it also harms non-citizens by forcing them to remain in proceedings increasing the risk of removal. This is also underscored by the fact that Sessions’ agency is pushing Judges to finish cases quickly, with less continuances, and giving Judges negative performance evaluations if cases last too long.


Due to Session’s control of the immigration courts  the work of Immigration Attorneys has never been more important.  Immigrants cannot rely on just adjudicators to provide due process. Immigrants need zealous advocates like our office.


Call our office today at 800-792-9889 so that we can advocate for you. We're also available at the link below or by email at assistant@immigrationhelpla.com


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Topics: Immigration, Asylum

Staff Attorney

Written by Staff Attorney


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