U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions picked up an ax and started whacking away this week, striking hard blows into the deportation log-jam.
On Tuesday, Sessions testified to the House Judiciary Committee that efforts are already underway to break up the deportation clog he inherited from Obama that has almost 600,000 cases backed up. With their additional efforts, he’s told, “by January, we will not be adding to the backlog but hopefully reducing it,” adding, “that would be a real change in the trends that we were heading on.”
Sessions pins his prediction on the recently increased number of new immigration judges. Fifty have already started work and more will be added as fast as they can be brought on board. Sixty more are expected to be hired in the next six months.
Department of Homeland Security statistics verify that since President Trump was sworn in, arrests of illegals are way up from enforcement crackdowns but nobody is getting deported. The good news is that even though the congestion hasn’t improved, it hasn’t gotten much worse either, despite a huge influx of new cases.
As cases are cleared, it will have a snowball effect freeing up resources to be used to clear even more cases, “by realigning the agency towards completing cases, increasing both productivity and capacity, and changing policies that lead to inefficiencies and delay justice.”
An example was already reported in April by Reuters. “Two of the eight immigration judges deployed to the U.S. border with Mexico to process asylum requests from migrant women and children were being recalled because they had so few cases to hear.”
Former immigration judge Andrew Arthur agrees that as far as immigration issues go, the DOJ is seeing things move in the right direction. “We have turned a corner,” he agrees. “We may see a slight increase, but we are going to level off and start to see a decline.”
The biggest challenge is the legacy of Obama’s basic sanctuary policies. Gumming up the works are a load of thousands of cases that the Obama administration sat on. Notices to Appear were sent out to illegals under Obama but nobody in Obama’s DOJ bothered to file them with the court. Suddenly, they were all pulled out and filed at once.
One of the most effective ways to speed things up is by weeding out frivolous and fraudulent claims. As illegals surged across the border, they were well prepared. Virtually everyone coming across the border claims a “credible fear” that bad things will happen to them if they return home. Some claims are legitimate but most are bogus and the individuals simply disappear without ever going to court.
“The Obama administration sent a clear signal to people trying to cross the border without permission that they could stay, at least temporarily, if they uttered the phrase ‘credible fear’ to border agents,” explains Ira Mehlman, Federation for American Immigration Reform spokesman. “That was available to get you through the door and what happens, happens later. If it happens at all.”
Sessions followed up Tuesday’s hearing with a memo to the immigration courts. Laying out a set of “core principles,” Sessions wants them to “do what they can, consistent with the law, to increase productivity, enhance efficiencies, and ensure the timely and proper administration of justice.”
Starting from the assumption that “unwarranted delays and delayed decision making do not serve the national interest,” Sessions says that Obama’s policy for immigration lawyers to “routinely push for an administrative closure, or a pause in the proceedings before an immigration judge” has left far too many cases in legal limbo. The Center for Immigration Studies backs him up, reporting “the Obama era used this procedure on 200,000 deportation cases over eight years.”
Sessions made it absolutely clear to “all EOIR staff and officials” that their own personal opinions should be left at the door. Every one of them “is to apply immigration laws as enacted, irrespective of personal policy preferences.”
The biggest effect can come from quickly disposing of “meritless” cases or motions before the courts or the appeals board.” The memo spells out, “there is often fraud in the immigration court system, and that fraud can lead to delays, inefficiencies and the improper provision of immigration benefits. Fraud should be immediately documented and reported.”
EOIR Acting Director James McHenry applauded Sessions in a statement, released later Wednesday. “With today’s memo, the Attorney General reaffirms his commitment to the rule of law and to the timely and proper adjudication of immigration court cases. EOIR has already begun to see the effects of this commitment and with the same dedication from EOIR staff, attorneys, and judges can further work toward realizing our goal of cutting the pending caseload in half by 2020.”