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AILA Doc. No. 21041931 | Dated December 22, 2021
The U.S. immigration court system suffers from profound structural problems that have severely eroded its capacity to deliver just decisions in a timely manner, as well as public confidence in its outcomes. The Trump administration used these foundational flaws to manipulate the courts to their breaking points – pressuring judges to render decisions at a break-neck pace at the cost of accuracy, eliminating docketing tools, growing the backlog, and restricting access to relief, among other actions.
It is imperative that the Biden administration makes immediate reforms to ensure a functioning court system and due process in the wake of political manipulations by the Trump Administration. See below for resources on why we need the courts to be rehabilitated, what needs to be done, progress that’s been made, and how you can help.
Ultimately, to operate in a balanced and fair manner, Congress must pass legislation creating an Article I immigration court system. Agency policy alone cannot outweigh the conflict of interest built into the system: the immigration courts are overseen by the Attorney General (AG), who also supervises the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) lawyers who prosecute immigration cases in federal courts. In other words, the chief prosecutor is also the chief judge.
For years we have seen the detrimental effects of a politicized immigration court system. Administrations have repeatedly made policy decisions not because they’re efficient or legally sound, but because they’re politically expedient. This flawed system is what enabled the Trump administration to transform the immigration courts into an enforcement agency rather than a fair and neutral arbiter, turning immigration judges into “prosecutors in ... judge’s robe[s].”
Cite as AILA Doc. No. 21041931.
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