Pulling Back the Curtain: Justice Subverted


As Senator Mitch McConnell calls the Senate back into session to shove through more Trump judicial nominations, Roll Call reported again on the continuing subversion of immigration courts.

“In October, CQ Roll Call reported on documents showing the Justice Department had tweaked the hiring process to fill six new vacancies on the Board of Immigration Appeals, an administrative body that reviews the decision of immigration judges and sets long-lasting precedent. The spots were filled by immigration judges with records of high asylum denial rates, many with a history of formal complaints.

“But new Justice Department memos obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed in March by the American Immigration Council and the American Immigration Lawyers Association, and shared with CQ Roll Call, further illuminate the rule changes that enabled those and more recent hires. The latest three, sworn in Friday, include an immigration judge who denied over 96 percent of the asylum requests before him and had a history of formal complaints about ‘bias and prejudice.’

“The hiring plan documents show shortened hiring timelines and suggest preference given to judges with records of rulings against immigrants. The documents also demonstrate the influence held over the board by the political leadership of the Executive Office for Immigration Review, the Justice Department agency that oversees the nation’s immigration court system, particularly its director, James McHenry.”

And a reminder: the reason for the six new vacancies is the Trump administration’s expansion of the Board of Immigration Appeals from 17 members to 23 members, creating new positions for the politicians to fill.

The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) can overrule decisions by immigration judges, including decisions to grant asylum or to deny deportation.

Beyond the BIA, the Attorney General can take jurisdiction of cases and decide the fate of immigrants and the interpretation of immigration law. That’s a process called “certification.” In this administration, attorneys general have accelerated the use of certification, using it, for example, to restrict the definition of torture and to deny asylum to categories of applicants including victims of domestic violence.

Perhaps the Trump administration should give immigration judges a new oath to accurately reflect their assignment: “Do you swear to faithfully follow the dictates of the Attorney General and to renounce any loyalty to U.S. laws or international human rights principles that interfere with those orders?”

About Mary Turck

News Day, written by Mary Turck, analyzes, summarizes, links to, and comments on reports from news media around the world, with particular attention to immigration, education, and journalism. Fragments, also written by Mary Turck, has fiction, poetry and some creative non-fiction. Mary Turck edited TC Daily Planet, www.tcdailyplanet.net, from 2007-2014, and edited the award-winning Connection to the Americas and AMERICAS.ORG, in its pre-2008 version. She is also a recovering attorney and the author of many books for young people (and a few for adults), mostly focusing on historical and social issues.
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