Immigration Judges To Be Evaluated Against Case Quotas

Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Attorney General Jeff Sessions

The standards, which take effect October 1, include six other measures indicating how much time judges should spend on different types of cases and court motions.

The new system has also stipulated additional targets like penalizing judges who refer more than 15 per cent of certain cases to higher courts, or judges who slot dates of hearing too many days apart on their calendars.

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In general, the new requirements make it possible for judges to rule the same day that an asylum seeker goes to court to prove that the individual has passed the first threshold of establishing whether the individual has a "credible" or "reasonable" fear of being returned to their country.

James McHenry, director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review, used similar language in an email Friday that details the new measures for the department's approximately 350 immigration judges. If they are in some sense "judged" by the number of cases they finish, then the temptation will be to rush through more cases without giving immigration defendants a fair shot.

"We believe the imposition of numerical performance metrics is completely, utterly contrary to judicial independence", Dana Leigh Marks, an immigration judge in San Francisco and an union spokesperson for National Immigration Judges Association told the AP.

President Donald Trump again criticized the Justice Department on Monday, saying the agency's production of documents to Congress is an "embarrassment to our country!"

Critics say that the new standards could make it more hard for judges to rule with fairness and may in turn add to their backlog because more immigrants may choose to appeal decisions by arguing that they were denied a fair hearing.

Justice Department spokesman Devin O'Malley told the Washington Post that immigration judges clear an average of 678 cases per year, so issuing a minimum of 700 isn't "that big of a lift".

It added that due process could not be "meted out on a schedule, but requires judges to use their expertise on a case-by-case basis to move cases as fairly and efficiently as possible".

"Creating an environment where the courts care more about the speed than the accuracy, and where judges are evaluated and even rewarded based on quantity rather than quality is unacceptable and a violation of due process", Laura Lynch, a senior policy counsel with the American Immigration Lawyers Association, was quoted as saying by CNN. Decisions in immigration court have life or death consequences and can not be managed like an assembly line.

The National Association of Immigration Judges (NAIJ), which represents immigration judges in the US, has warned that the new quotas will "put due process at risk and threaten judicial independence".

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