Justice Department Imposes New Production Deadlines and Case Completion Quotas on U.S. Immigration Judges

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On Friday, March 30, 2018, the U.S. Justice Department, under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, notified all U.S. immigration judges that part of their annual job performance evaluations will be tied to how quickly they close cases.[1]

Ballpoint pen and word “Immigration”.

The immigration judges were informed of these new standards in an email from the Executive Office of Immigration Review, which is the Department of Justice office that houses the immigration courts. In the email to the judges, Director James McHenry said that these changes would not take effect until October 1, 2018, which is the start of the federal government’s new fiscal year.[2] Regarding the new standards, Director McHenry wrote, “Using metrics to evaluate performance is neither novel nor unique to EOIR. The purpose of implementing these metrics is to encourage efficient and effective case management while preserving immigration judge discretion and due process. I am confident that you will meet and surpass our high expectations.”[3]

Under these new standards for immigration judges, in order for an immigration judge to receive a “satisfactory performance” rating on his or her annual performance evaluation (for the fiscal year beginning on October 1, 2018 and ending on September 30, 2019, and to keep her job), the immigration judge will be required to[4]:

  • Case Completions: complete at least 700 cases a year; and
  • Remand Rate: have fewer than 15 percent of their decisions overturned on appeal (including Board of Immigration Appeals and Circuit Courts; and
  • The immigration judge must meet at least half of the following Benchmarks that are applicable to the judge’s work during the rating period, as long as the judge’s performance in each Benchmark is above the “Unsatisfactory” performance level. For a list of these benchmarks, click here to read the EOIR Performance Plan for Adjudicative Employees.

There is an enormous backlog of immigration law cases: at present date, there is a backlog of about 700,000 cases for about 335 immigration judges in the U.S. The work is grueling, sometimes mindless, the law is complicated, and the stories shared by immigrants in court are frequently traumatic and emotional given the high stakes. Immigration judges must make life-altering decisions as to whether or not non-citizens will be allowed to remain in the U.S, sometimes sending people back to their deaths. The Department of Justice claims that the imposition of their plan to require judges to meet case completion deadlines and production quotas to receive a “satisfactory” annual performance review in order to keep their jobs will help with the massive case backlog issue. This is utter nonsense, and they know it.

This quota approach is absolutely misguided and will have the opposite effect. The following are some potential issues that will arise as a result of this new system:

  • The quota system will cause immigration judges to make decisions on cases based on what will be fastest and what decision will help them keep their jobs come annual performance review time rather than what the judge finds the legally correct decision to be. Even if the immigration judge doesn’t do this, respondents in immigration court may argue that they do and this could then become an appealable issue that invites legal challenges, thus extending the case process further.
  • Creating a built-in appeal with each case will only increase litigation and increase the backlog of cases in the already overburdened systems.
  • By introducing this external factor into the decision-making process, the integrity and impartiality of the immigration courts and the judges presiding over them may be called into question.
  • No other courts/judges in America are subject to individual quotas and case completion deadlines as part of their performance review and evaluations.
  • One can’t measure due process by time metrics. The quota system could potentially obscure due process and pervert the oath of office each judge takes to decide each case on its own merits in a fair and impartial way.

Rather than subject current judges to an increased case completion quota, a more sensible, judicious way to deal with the backlog of immigration cases is to hire more immigration judges.

The Kuck | Baxter Immigration Blog will continue to provide our readers with timely updates as this issue develops and additional reports emerge concerning the effects of this case completion quota issue on the immigration court system.

This is an exceptionally stressful time for immigrants currently living in the United States. Immigration laws and policies are cumbersome and highly complicated and to make matters even worse, they are often in a state of chaotic flux with constant changes or threats of impending changes.

While we cannot guarantee a particular outcome, the experienced Kuck | Baxter immigration attorneys can help you understand your options and help determine the best way for you to achieve your desired immigration goal. Through our legal expertise and zealous client advocacy, we will do everything in our power to make sure your legal rights are upheld and that you receive due process under the law.

To learn more about Kuck | Baxter Immigration Partners and the immigration law services we offer our clients or to schedule your consultation with one of our immigration lawyers, contact us using our website’s online contact form or you can reach us at:

 

 

Kuck | Baxter Immigration Partners LLC

365 Northridge Road

Suite 300

Atlanta, GA 30350

Tel: (404) 816-8611

 

Kuck | Baxter Immigration Partners LLC

367 Prince Avenue #3

Suite K

Athens, GA 30606

Tel: (404) 816-8611

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/justice_department_imposes_quotas_on_immigration_judges_provoking_independe

[2] http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/justice_department_imposes_quotas_on_immigration_judges_provoking_independe

[3] http://www.abajournal.com/images/main_images/from_Asso_Press_-_03-30-2018_McHenry_-_IJ_Performance_Metrics_.pdf

[4] https://www.npr.org/2018/04/03/599158232/justice-department-rolls-out-quotas-for-immigration-judges

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